The Punch

Despite denial, FG earmarks N20bn for COVID-19 vaccine distributi­on

- Eniola Akinkuotu and Deborah Tolu-kolawole

THE Federal Government has set aside N20bn for the distributi­on of COVID-19 vaccines three months after denying a report by The PUNCH that N10.6bn had been set aside for distributi­on of vaccines across the country.

Citing a proposal presented to governors by the National Primary Health Care Developmen­t Agency, this newspaper had reported on March 6, 2021 that N10.6bn would be spent on transporta­tion of COVID-19 vaccines to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

The budget attracted condemnati­on online with many wondering why such an amount of money would be spent on distributi­ng vaccines across the country.

In his response, the Executive Director of the NPHCDA , Faisal Shuaib, dismissed the report, claiming that the private sectorled Coalition Against COVID-19 would handle transporta­tion.

Shuaib said, “I mean, I’m hearing this from you for the first time. It doesn’t make any sense that on the one hand, we’ve communicat­ed very clearly to Nigerians that CACOVID, a private sector initiative, has provided a cargo plane that will help deliver the vaccines from Abuja to all states that have functional airports.

“For those that do not have functional airports, there is a delivery van that will convey the vaccines from those airports to the states without functional­ity. I do not see how that is going to cost N10bn. So there is no truth in that informatio­n.

“The only cost we’re going to incur is the cost of delivering the vaccines from any airport to nearby states that don’t have functional airports. Clearly that cannot be N10.6bn. So it is not correct to say that the Federal Government is going to be expending N10.6bn to transport vaccines to the state. That is incredulou­s.”

However, a copy of the supplement­ary budget proposal which has been passed by the Senate shows that the budget for delivery of vaccines has increased to N20bn.

The line item reads in part, “Vaccines delivery cost to every ward (operationa­l cost): Federal Government of Nigeria funding (100 per cent of the NEEDS).

Ensuring availabili­ty of PHCS (Primary Healthcare Centres) and health workers to deliver vaccines- N20, 627, 323, 202.”

The executive had while submitting the budget to the lawmakers had said that it was for security and COVID-19.

Sources within the National Assembly told The PUNCH that some of the money had already been disbursed through the service wide vote.

The CACOVID initiative led by billionair­e businessma­n, Aliko Dangote, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, had revealed last April that the private sector had raised N27bn for the COVID-19 response.

The United Bank for Africa Plc donated N3bn through the UBA Foundation to support the fight against coronaviru­s in Nigeria. Billionair­e, Mike Adenuga, donated N1.5bn to the Federal Government and Lagos State Government

other wealthy members of the private sector including Femi otedola, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Herbert Wigwe, Segun Agbaje and Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, all contribute­d N1bn each.

First Bank and Keystone Bank donated N1bn each while Modupe and Folorunsho Alakija, Nigerian industrial­ists, announced a donation of N1bn to support the fight against coronaviru­s.

All Progressiv­es Congress stalwart, Bola Tinubu, contribute­d N200m to the cause while lotto boss, Mr. Kessington Adebutu, donated N300m.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporatio­n and its partners in the private sector announced a donation of $30m (N11bn) last week to help combat the coronaviru­s pandemic and its attendant impact on the Nigerian economy.

However, some of the food items donated by CACOVID were hoarded and rebranded by several politician­s across the country which was discovered during the #ENDSARS protests of october 2020.

Attempts to get a response from the NPHCDA boss proved abortive as he neither responded to calls nor a Whatsapp message on Wednesday.

Similarly, the Chief Executive officer of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, Zouera Youssoufou, who speaks on behalf of CACOVID, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Delta variant: NCDC tasks states on contact tracing, others.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control has advised state ministries of health to step up contact tracing and follow up cases of COVID-19 cases.

Director General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said this in an interview with The PUNCH, in Abuja, on Wednesday.

He noted that each state ministry of health had a responsibi­lity to reach out and keep a tap on the number of infected persons to ensure they receive the necessary care to prevent further spread.

Ihekweazu who was responding to questions on the subject of contract tracing, said “When a case is detected, irrespecti­ve of the variant, the responsibi­lity of contact tracing and follow up lies on the state ministries of health.

“For us at the NCDC, we will continue to carry out sequencing to detect variants, and use this data to guide our public health action.

“We will also continue to ensure daily review of data and use them for decision making.

“To prepare for a possible surge in cases, we have ensured regular supplies to all laboratori­es and treatment centres for rapid detection of cases and case management, risk communicat­ions among other response activities.

“We also advise states to ensure that sample collection and testing are accessible so that people who have symptoms or have been exposed to a positive case get tested quickly.”

Asked how many cases of Delta variant of COVID-19 had so far been identified in Nigeria, he said the states were in a better position to give such details.

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