From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Governors of the 35 states of the federation have disowned Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State over claim that the COVID vaccine is an agent of death meant to kill people.
The governors under the auspices of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), have therefore, stressed that they will continue to be informed and guided by science and will ensure that every decision taken retains public and professional trust and not compromised by conflicts of interest.
Bello in a video widely circulating on Facebook was seen discouraging a jeering crowd of supporters from taking the vaccines.
He said in the video: “…They want to use the (COVID-19) vaccines to introduce the disease that will kill you and us. God forbid!
“These vaccines are being produced in less than one year of COVID-19. There is no vaccine yet for HIV, malaria, cancer and for several diseases that are killing us… We should draw our minds back to what happened in Kano during the polio vaccines that crippled and killed our children. We have learned our lessons.
“If they say they are taking the vaccines in the public allow them take their vaccines. Don’t say I said you should not take it but if you want to take it open your eyes before you take the vaccines,” he said.
The federal government had said it is expecting at least 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of January through the COVAX co-financing public-private facility.
Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA); Dr. Faisal Shuaib, had informed the media recently that both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will take the COVID-19 vaccines live on TV to allay the growing vaccine hesitancy among Nigerians.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, who addressed journalists in Abuja after meeting with President Buhari last week had said he and his colleagues will also take the vaccines on live television. “We too will like to demonstrate to our citizens that we believe that vaccines would work,” he said.
“Don’t forget, we have a lot of experience on this. Governors Forum managed the polio vaccines administration in the country and we have garnered a lot of experience,” said Fayemi, who is also the chairman of NGF.
In a communique signed by Fayemi, released to the media after Wednesday night’s meeting, the governors said: “On the ill-fated pronouncement made by a member of the Forum regarding the COVID-19 vaccine in a national daily, the Forum totally and categorically dissociated itself from the statement, emphasizing that the Forum will continue to be informed and guided by science and will ensure that every decision it takes retains public and professional trust and is not compromised by conflicts of interest.”
The Forum announced the setting up of a team of experts led by Professor Oyewale Tomori to advice State governors on the procurement and administration of coronavirus vaccines in the country.
This followed briefings from three medical experts including Professor Tomori, leading Virologist and former Vice-Chancellor of Redeemer’s University, Nigeria; Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA); Dr. Pamela Ajayi Founder/Managing Director Synlab Nigeria (formerly PathCare), President Healthcare Federation of Nigeria and Dr. Egbe Dawodu, Founding Partner of the Anadach Group on the country’s preparedness for the procurement and administration of COVID vaccines and the level of collaboration required from all stakeholders, including the federal, state governments and the private sector.
The Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, who is the Chairman of the NGF Sub- Committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 reported with concern the rising positivity rate amongst those tested for the virus. He called on Governors to do more to reactivate their health systems, open-up treatment centres and increase partnerships with stakeholder groups in order to improve risk communication and the public’s adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.
Following a a presentation from the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu and the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, on the Sustainable Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SUWASH) results-based financing programme for States, governors have committed to increase budgetary allocation for the sector.
According to the communique: “The programme has become necessary given the state of the sector which has contributed to 73% of Nigeria’s total burden of enteric infections and over 255,000 preventable deaths in the country each year.
“State governors consequently committed to increasing budgetary allocation to the sector with the collaboration of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the World Bank through the US$640 million investment finance and US$60 million technical assistance component which together will support and incentivize infrastructure investments and strengthen government policies and institutions in the WASH sector.”