Following misgivings in some parts of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday promised that the COVID-19 vaccines to be procured by government will not endanger the people’s health.
He pleaded with the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) to assist in the mobilisation for vaccination.
The President bared his mind during an audience with a delegation of NSCIA, led by the President-General and Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar.
Although the council went to the Presidential Villa with a list of demands, such as security and marginalization, the President used the opportunity to clear the air on some expressed fears on Coronavirus’ the vaccines.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “At the meeting, the President assured us that he will ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines being brought will not endanger any Nigerian.
“He said the pandemic is global and he attaches importance to the health and safety of Nigetians.
“He asked NSCIA to assist in mobilizing Muslims and other Nigerians to be part of the vaccination which will soon begin.
“Although neither the Sultan nor any member of the NSCIA is opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, there has been anxiety over the vaccines in view of the Pfizer experiment in Kano State in the past.”
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During the public session of the meeting, the President said: “As government continues to work towards managing this crisis, it is also critical that you lend your voices in support of those basic but fundamental protocols that can significantly curtail the spread of this disease – Washing of our hands, Using facemasks and ensuring social distancing as much as possible have been proven to be our first line of defense in the fight against this virus.
”Furthermore and much more important, when the vaccines which we are working hard to procure for the nation arrive, please, please join in the drive to educate people that these vaccines are meant to save lives and protect everyone”.
Also yesterday, the Executive Director, National Primarily Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaibu, reiterated that the Federal Government was targeting vaccination of 70 per cent of Nigerians.
Shuaibu spoke during a webinar hosted by the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kaduna. He said 30 per cent of those eligible will be vaccinated under the first phase, while the remaining 40 per cent will receive their vaccine in the second phase.
He said the first phase of vaccination would prioritize Health workers and aged people, with underlying health challenges, stressing that government was doing everything possible to ensure that those targeted were vaccinated to curb the spread of the Virus.
The Chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum, Plateau State Governor Samuel Lalong, expressed gratitude to the Foundation for the webinar, which had gone along way in enlightening the people about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
He said Northern Governors had agreed to purchase the vaccines, whenever it became available.
But NSCIA asked the President to address the increasing security challenges in the country which have made all Nigerians vulnerable.
The council also protested against alleged victimization and marginalization of Muslims in the country, including burning of mosques in some states in the South.
The President, who pledged to look into issues raised by NSCIA, said he will “not take sides with any religion.”
It was gathered that the NSCIA made some demands from the Federal Government.
The source said: ”The council expressed concerns over the increasing security challenges facing the nation. They said Nigerians want the President to arrest the insecurity which affects everyone.
“The President told the delegation that he has started addressing the security problems. He said ‘we have taken far-reaching steps, you will soon feel the results.”
“Regarding victimization, NSCIA presented facts and figures on how Muslims have been maltreated in some parts of the country especially in the Southern part where mosques were burnt and freedom of worship curtailed.
“The council explained how it was able to manage all the cases to avoid reprisals. But it pleaded with the government to speak with the appropriate authorities to guarantee freedom of worship.
“NSCIA also reeled out cases of marginalization of Muslims on appointments and others.
“While noting the demands of NSCIA, President Buhari said: ‘Let me assure you that I will not take sides or support any religion against another.’ He said he will do his best to promote religious harmony and cohesion.”