From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure, Tony John, Port Harcourt and Linus Oota, Lafia
Panic and anxiety, yesterday, enveloped Akure, the Ondo State capital and Port Harcourt, Rivers State over rumours of killer innoculation by some unidentified persons in Army uniform, as parents rushed to withdraw their children from schools before the official closing hours.
The wild rumour of the deadly Monkeypox virus immunisation came barely a week after a similar stampede was witnessed in some parts of the South East and Delta State.
As early as 9am, tension and anxiety had gripped many parts of Akure township over allegation that soldiers numbering about 20 had invaded some schools in Ore, headquarters of Odigbo Local Government Area and were administering vaccines on some school children. In fact, no fewer than three of the children were said to have died following their injection.
However, it was discovered that the rumour, which also went viral on the social media, was unfounded as visits to most of the schools in Akure and neighbouring towns of Oba-Ile, Ilaramokin and Ifon showed that no soldier was in any of the schools for any purpose.
Notwithstanding, anxious parents stormed many of the public and private schools to withdraw their children, a development which caused chaos at Fiwasaye High School located at Alagbaka area of the Akure metropolis.
But the 32 Artillery Brigade of Nigerian Army, Akure debunked the rumours of harmful vaccination being conducted by some people believed to be soldiers in Ondo State.
The Public Relations Officer, Major Ojo Adelegan, in a statement, urged the public to consider the rumour as handiwork of detractors, as he urged the public to provide useful information on any person or group behind the malicious information against the military.
“There was nothing like that. No officer administered vaccine on any child in any part of the state. It was a mere rumour, which only exists in the minds of those peddling it. There is no ongoing medical outreach in Ondo State. The information is the hand work of mischief makers and should be treated as such,’’ he said.
Also, the Ondo State government, in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, described the rumour as baseless and unfounded.
Similarly, in Rivers State, rumour was rife that deadly vaccines were being injected on school children by personnel of the 6 Division, Nigerian Army.
Daily Sun gathered that the rumours began from some schools in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area that soldiers were forcefully giving expired injections to students and primary school pupils.
A parent, Mrs. Angela Omaiba, who works with a multinational oil firm, said she was called by the school authority to come for her son because soldiers were giving vaccines to pupils.
“I had to abandon my duties in office to rescue my only son to avoid regret. I am not bothered whether it is rumour or not. Prevention is better than cure,” she said.
When Daily Sun visited one of the secondary schools in the Port Harcourt metropolis to ascertain the situation, the principal (name withheld), said he would not allow any medical team to enter the premises, let alone inject any child.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State government said it did not authorized the Nigeria Army “or in deed, any other body or person to enter into school premises to administer forced medication or vaccination on any child in any school in Rivers State”.
When contacted, the spokesman of the 6 Division, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, debunked the allegation, stressing that the army were not involved in any medical outreach. Colonel Iliyasu stated that when 6 Division heard the rumour, it went into investigation, saying that no member of the public had confirmed seeing any military personnel in any of the schools in the State. He disclosed that the 6 Division had reached out to the Police Command to reach out to the Divisional Police Stations and arrest any person dressed in military camouflage found in any school.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar expressed disappointment over comments credited to supposed elder statesmen and leaders from the South East condemning the recent polio vaccination administered on school children in the zone.
He said the campaign was aimed at tarnishing the image of the Federal Government and certain individuals in government and warned politicians against politicising health issues of Nigerians, noting that the vaccines cannot kill human being.
The Sultan spoke at the Government House, Lafia, when he led northern traditional leaders from the 19 states to flag off its third polio eradication routine immunization in Nasarawa State.