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COVID-19: Dec 1 deadline: Only 3% eligible Nigerians fully vaccinated

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With less than a week to the December 1 deadline for COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal civil servants, figures released, yesterday, by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), shows that a paltry three per cent of the eligible population have been fully vaccinated, despite assurances by government of the availability of sufficient vaccines.

Three states had earlier made it compulsory for workers to get vaccinated, failing which they would be denied access to public spaces and religious worship centres. The states are Edo, Kaduna and Ondo. While it had been a tepid enforcement of the mandate in Kaduna and Edo since November 1, Ondo last week extended the deadline for civil servants’ vaccination to December 31, 2021.

The dismal showing also falls short of the 50 per cent target the Federal Government had earlier set for itself to vaccinate 55 million residents by the end of January 2022, which is two months away. Government had always insisted it has enough vaccines and assured of flow of high quality vaccines from many sources to meet its target

On March 6, 2021, Nigeria began its COVID-19 vaccination drive in Abuja, but nearly nine months after, a total of 6,183,844 number of eligible persons have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the country as at Tuesday, November 23, representing only 5.5 per cent of the eligible population.

Out of the number, a total of 3,456,204 have received their second dose and are fully vaccinated and this represents only 3.1 per cent of the eligible population.

Of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos tops the chart of total vaccinated persons with 1,035,593 out of which fully vaccinated persons are 665,827. This is followed in the top five rank by Ogun, 345,886 vaccinated and 168,364 fully vaccinated; Oyo, 321,884 vaccinated and 162,099 fully vaccinated; Kano, 229,178 vaccinated and 144,380 fully vaccinated; and Kaduna, 212,021 vaccinated and 132,706 fully vaccinated.

States on the bottom five are: Bayelsa, 39,826 vaccinated and 17,218 fully vaccinated; Ebonyi, 64,419 vaccinated and 31,106 fully vaccinated; Sokoto, 56,237 vaccinated and 40,761 fully vaccinated; Yobe, 62,024 vaccinated and 41,260 fully vaccinated; and Kogi, 80,754 vaccinated and 42,373 fully vaccinated.

Recall that the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had announced that effective December 1, unvaccinated Federal Government workers won’t be allowed access into any public offices, as part of measures to contain the spread of the pandemic .

“All Federal Government employees are reminded that December 1 remains the deadline for all to show evidence of being vaccinated or a PCR Negative test result done 72 hours before being allowed into their offices,” he said.

The Federal Government on Monday again warned employees who love their jobs to go and get vaccinated before the deadline, insisting that its decision was in the best interest of Nigerians. The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, observed that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate has become a global requirement and Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind in the fight against the pandemic.

While Ehanire said the Federal Ministry of Health is striving to attain herd immunity, “which we had calculated to be by vaccinating at least 70 per cent of our eligible population,” a paltry six per cent of eligible persons already vaccinated has demystified the insistence of vaccine mandate.

For instance, in the United States, where the mandate is also in vogue, more than 90 per cent of federal employees have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, while 71 per cent of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated, after the mandate was imposed by President Joe Biden in September.

LAWYERS are divided on the legality of the pronouncement vis-à-vis rights of citizens to privacy. While some said the Federal Government has no power to decree such orders without a legislative back up, threatening even to sue, others think it is in order and may be justified by the Quarantine Act.

Condemning the decision, the chairman, Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr. Monday O. Ubani, declared that there is no enabling substantive legislation that makes COVID-19 vaccination compulsory.

In the absence of any such law, he explained, any policy statement from the government that lacks legal backing, especially when it is meant to take away guaranteed rights of citizens, is illogical, unlawful, null and void.

“The compulsory vaccination directive violates the right to life. Assuming but not conceding that there is a law backing the compulsory vaccination, such law will still make room for exceptions. There may be persons with valid health-related or other relevant reasons, who may want to opt out of such compulsory vaccinations and the law must allow them.

“If such exceptions that are justifiable are not provided, then it is likely that such law violates the human rights of those who are vulnerable,” he argued.

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Fuel Subsidy Removal: Don’t paralyse Nigeria’s economy – PFN warns Buhari government

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President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Francis Wale Oke has cautioned the Nigerian Government against further aggravating the suffering of Nigerians through the proposed fuel subsidy removal.

He said the removal of fuel subsidy will lead to hikes in the prices of petroleum products.

In a release issued on Sunday by his Media Office, Oke warned that the implementation of such a policy could increase the hardship currently being experienced by the people of the country.

He lamented that prices of consumables and other items were increasingly getting out of reach of the people, noting that if the proposed subsidy removal is done, it would worsen the hardship of the people of the nation.

“Everybody will feel it, particularly the underprivileged. The negative effects will surely outweigh the positive. The cost of transportation for humans and goods across the country will skyrocket and other things connected which will have a spiral effect on the general living standard of the populace; the suffering will be multi-dimensional. Please, let all stakeholders be sensitive to this avoidable path and do the needful,” he said.

Oke said the situation has become worrisome due to the reduction in the purchasing power of Nigerians caused by the continuous fall in the value of the nation’s currency at the exchange market.

The PFN president, therefore, admonished the government to do all it could to revive the four ailing refineries in the country, with a view to ensuring they operate at an optimal level for a lasting benefit for the country and its people.

“By whatever means, let the Federal Government put its heart into ensuring that our refineries are back to life. In addition, in order to stem the rising cost of living, farmers and others connected to them should be encouraged. This is what can help our economy,” the cleric said.

While maintaining that the Christian body would always support policies that would enhance good governance, he urged the government to put in place tangible palliative measures that could ameliorate the hardship being experienced.

“Without begging the issue, there should be well-defined palliative measures in place that can cushion the effect of the hardship being experienced by Nigerians, especially the commoners. One is not talking about political palliatives that never last. We have seen enough of such,” he said.

Continuing, the bishop pointed out that “an increase in the price of petroleum from its present N165 to N340 per litre can trigger tension and crises in the country which in turn can paralyse our economy if not handled with utmost care”.

On the proposed N5,000 to be paid to about 40 million poor Nigerians by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to ameliorate the effects of the planned fuel subsidy removal, Oke asserted that “Again, the planned introduction of N5,000 for 40 million poor Nigerians is to create a cesspool of corruption. How do you define ‘the poor’? They, mostly, don’t use telephones. They, mostly, don’t have bank accounts. How will the money get to them?”

The renowned cleric advised the government to be wary of policies that could jeopardise the conduct of the 2023 general elections, insisting that all hands must be geared towards steering the wheel of the country to a better place.

As a panacea to the rising cost of food items, the PFN President advised that farmers and relevant stakeholders should be empowered with relevant tools and funds through loans with little interest.

Meanwhile, Oke who is also the presiding Bishop of The Sword of the Spirit Ministries implored the government not to relent in its efforts at ensuring that security challenges in the country become a thing of the past.

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New COVID-19 strain: Planned visit of Ramaphosa to Nigeria raises concern

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Following the outbreak of a new strain of COVID-19 in South Africa and the travel restrictions imposed on Southern African countries by several countries, concerns have been raised over the proposed visit of the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, to Nigeria.

Barring any last-minute change, President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to receive Ramaphosa and other top government functionaries of his administration, who are scheduled to undertake a three-day visit to Nigeria between November 29 and December 1.

South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases had revealed that there were 22 positive cases linked to the new strain of COVID-19, adding that the percentage testing positive was “increasing quickly”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared the strain identified as B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern” and named it “Omicron.”
The heavily-mutated new variant has so far been detected in South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong.

This development has prompted the ban of travellers from Southern African countries by the 27-member European Union (EU), and the United States, Britain, Canada, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and UAE.

The EU’s executive “will propose, in close coordination with member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529,” EU chief, Ursula Von der Leyen, had tweeted on Friday.

The EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

The US announced on Friday that it would be restricting travel from eight southern African countries over fears of the new variant, which some had expected to be named Nu but which has now been dubbed Omicron.

Travel would be mostly banned starting Monday (tomorrow) from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, a senior official in President Joe Biden’s administration, had reportedly said
However, only US citizens and permanent residents will still be able to travel from the eight countries.

Canada also banned travellers from seven African countries – Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe – over concerns about the variant.
The United Kingdom had also placed South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe on its red list, which means that direct flights from the six countries were banned from Friday until Sunday (today) at 4 am.

Passengers arriving from these countries from today, at 4 am, would have to book and pay for a government-approved hotel quarantine facility for 10 days.

Ramaphosa’s planned visit has raised concerns in Nigeria following the new strain of COVID-19.
“What is the federal government’s dilemma over the visit? Is Nigeria going to receive the South African President and other officials when other countries are banning travellers from South Africa? Is the federal government going to tell them not to come? Under what structure are they going to come?” a top official of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) queried.

The visit will be President Ramaphosa’s first visit to Nigeria in his official capacity as the substantive president since he was elected some three years ago.

He had visited Nigeria in 2018, as the acting president, following the exit of former President Jacob Zuma from office.
There are about 120 South African firms in Nigeria, including the telecommunication giant, MTN, DSTV whose parent company, Multichoice, remains the number one leading player in the cable TV ecosystem in the country.
However, only a few Nigerian firms are operating in South Africa.

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COVID-19: FG directs all civil servants to resume, get vaccinated

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The Federal government has directed civil servants from Grade Level 12 and below to resume work effective Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

Recall that federal civil service workers from Grade Level 12 and below had been working from home following a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country.

In the now-viral circular , the directive, signed by the Head of Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan, noted that beginning December 1, all Federal Government workers are requested “to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result done within 72 hours.”

“It will be recalled that as part of the measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, Officers on GL 12 and below were directed to work from home. Following the advice of the PSC on COVID-19, this category of officers are expected to resume duties on Wednesday, 1st December 2021,” the circular reads in part

Recall that the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, had earlier announced that beginning December 1, 2021 all Federal Government employees will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative PCR result to gain access to their offices.

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