By Henry Uche
The Board of Trustees (BoT) of ActionAid Nigeria has charge the federal government of Nigeria to demystify the rhetorics in the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination in the country, following the fear of many Nigerians about the safety of the vaccines.
In virtual meeting held over the weekend to review the State Of the Nation, the BoT observed with dismay that the negative myths about the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccines have continued to thrive since the call for registration for vaccination has been met with mixed reactions.
According to ActionAid BoT, some Nigerians are still unaware of COVID-19 vaccination despite the online registration portal and house to house registration for administration of the doses of the vaccine set up by the Federal Government.
They also observed that Kidnapping, especially of school children is gradually becoming a norm in the country as insecurity is still on the rise, with many records of banditry, insurgency and killings, especially in the North West, North East and North Central Nigeria.
“The rising cases of abduction of school children is becoming unbecoming and will further disparage stakeholders’ efforts at reducing the rate of out-of-school children in Nigeria, particularly, the girl-child. Schools are now seemingly unsafe for girls and give parents undue justification to force their girl-child into early marriage.
“Tackling poverty requires a multidimensional approach and considerations. Implementing interventionist programs to reduce poverty is difficult when violence is on the rise across Nigeria. In addition, poverty alleviation schemes put in place by the government have been rendered ineffective largely due to corruption, uneven distribution, and lack of accountability,”
They decried the level of indebtedness of Nigerian government, saying, “While other African countries spend an average of 17% of their revenue on debt servicing, Nigeria is currently servicing debts with 50% of its revenue. Despite the huge borrowings, there are not enough infrastructure to show for it as many Nigerians remain in abject poverty. Healthcare system is sub-standard, no stable electricity, and the state of most Nigerian roads are still deplorable.
The BoT further pressed for the autonomy of the third tier of government to enable local government chairmen deliver democracy dividends to the local dwellers. “The role of the LGAs as the third tier of government in the Nigerian 1999 constitution includes provision of infrastructural developments at the grassroots. Yet, state governments have continued to usurp the powers and functions attributed to the local governments and only acknowledge them as a subunit of the state with no autonomy,”
They recommend therefore that the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) should ensure that its multi-faceted approach to registration & administration of the COVID19 vaccine be inclusive, recognizing citizens in excluded communities; whilst the National Orientation Agency works with other stakeholders to eliminate perceived myths about the COVID19 vaccine.
They also recommend the overhauling and restructuring of the nation’s security architecture to create real changes in areas as funding, equipment, accountability and boosting the morale of the men in the field among others, stressing that community ownership is key to winning the war against insecurity as evidenced by ActionAid Nigeria Community Action Response Teams (CARTs) piloted in 24 communities in Kogi and Nasarawa states.
“To reduce poverty, governments at all levels must prioritise policies relevant to specific communities; COVID-19, conflicts and climate crisis should be carefully considered to successfully reduce poverty in Nigeria. Anti-corruption rhetorics should be matched with action. We call on federal government, anti-corruption agencies to ensure the implementation of emergency fund management protocols and bring defaulters to book.
“We admonish federal and state governments to expedite actions to make local government councils autonomous to fast-track rural development, strengthen agriculture, create employment, and reduce rural-urban migration.
“Most importantly, to reduce Nigeria’s debt profile, the government must urgently close all leakages along the revenue collection value chain, swiftly reduce the cost of governance at all levels of the polity and expedite the process of diversifying the economy,” they maintained.