Amid reactions to the declaration by Edo and Ondo states regarding restricted access to public places for unvaccinated residents, the Federal Government may sanction eligible Nigerians who refuse COVID-19 vaccination.
The hint was dropped yesterday by the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, at a briefing in Abuja.
Shuaib said the government may “apply the basic rule of law” against such people because they will be endangering the lives of other people.
He said: “The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health is exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians including federal civil servants and corporate entities. Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, we would need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy.
“If some individuals refuse to take the vaccine, hence endangering those who have or those who could not due to medical exemptions, then we have to apply the basic rule of law, which stipulates that your human right stops where mine begins. So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others.”
This is coming as a federal high court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday, granted an order restraining Edo Governor, Godwin Obaseki and the state government from restricting unvaccinated persons from attending mass gatherings as from mid September.
Governor Obaseki had last week mandated people of the state to take the vaccine, warning that, as from September 15, anyone who has not been vaccinated will not be allowed into public places such as banks and worship centres.
“From the second week of September, people may not be allowed to worship in churches and mosques without showing proof of their vaccination cards at the gates. Similarly, people will not be allowed to event centres, receptions or parties without showing proof of their vaccination cards,” the government had warned.
However, one Charles Osaretin filed a suit marked FHC/PH/FHR/266/2021 to counter the governor and five others. The applicant, through his counsel, Echezona Etiaba (SAN), asked the court to order parties to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice, for the enforcement of the applicant’s fundamental human rights, and for the leave of court to serve the respondents by publishing the court’s processes in a national daily newspaper.
The judge, Stephen Dalyop Pam, granted the orders and adjourned the suit till September 10 for a hearing of the substantive motion.
Earlier on Monday, civil servants in Edo Ministry of Health were given a seven-day ultimatum to get vaccinated against COVID-19 pandemic. The ultimatum was contained in a memo dated August 30, with reference number: HA.429/1/16 and issued by Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Frederick Irabor.
The memo stated that any staff member who failed to get vaccinated within the period would not be allowed into office. “I am directed to refer to the above subject and to notify all staff (members) of Ministry of Health to get vaccinated against the deadly COVID-19 within the week. I am further directed to inform all that from September 6, any staff (member) who has not taken the COVID-19 vaccine will not be allowed into the office premises,” the memo stated.
Edo, yesterday, recorded another COVID-19-related death, bringing the total number of fatalities to 12. The State COVID-19 Incident Manager, Dr. Andrew Obi, urged citizens to leverage the opportunity of the second phase vaccination to get full protection against the virus.
“The death recorded is that of a 76-year-old unvaccinated male at the Stella Obasanjo Hospital. All persons who have died from the virus in the third wave were unvaccinated, while over 96 per cent of confirmed cases are those who were never vaccinated. This necessitates the need for everyone to get inoculated to remain healthy and alive.”
Giving updates on the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination, the NPHCDA boss said 346,811 Nigerians have received the first dose of the four million Moderna vaccines that arrived Nigeria last month, adding that 13,756 who were waiting for the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccines have received their shots, as of August 30.
Shuaib observed that as the vaccines become available worldwide, some countries have made vaccination a requirement to gain access to their country. Noting that evidence of vaccination against COVID-19 is now mandatory for all pilgrims to the holy cities of Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem, he urged adherents of both religions who are planning to perform pilgrimage next year or in the future to get vaccinated now to avoid any delays.
Shuaib noted that the Federal Government is very alert on the safety and efficacy of the various range of vaccines in the country. He noted that a vaccine is a reliable and proven tool for prevention and control of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19 adding that a vaccine works by stimulating the immune system to induce immune cells and proteins, called antibodies, that confer immunity or protection against the disease.
“It is therefore ridiculous when the anti-vaccination campaigners claim that COVID-19 alters the human DNA or that people will die in two weeks or two years after vaccination. Similar claims, that polio vaccines were intended to cause infertility and kill our children, were made in the past but today, many of the children who received polio vaccine have grown to adulthood, become parents and are fulfilling their various dreams. No child in the country died of polio vaccination,” he added.
THIS is in spite of developments in Japan, where two persons died days after receiving Moderna shots, which forced a suspension in the country over contamination risk. Japan suspended the use of about 1.63 million doses of the Moderna vaccine on August 26 as a precaution after foreign substances were found in some vials.
A causal link between the vaccine and the deaths has not yet been established, according to the ministry and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, which distributes the Moderna vaccine in Japan.
“Currently, no link has been confirmed between these deaths and the Moderna vaccine, but we believe it is important to carry out a formal probe to investigate the matter further,” Takeda Pharmaceutical Company said in a statement on Monday.
MEANWHILE, the World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, said the new COVID-19 variant, labelled C.1.2., which was first detected in South Africa, does not appear to be spreading. WHO spokesperson, Margaret Harris, told a UN briefing, that the C.1.2. variant was not currently classified as a “variant of concern” by the UN health agency as it was monitoring the variant as it evolves.
Earlier, South African scientists said the new variant comes with multiple mutations but they are yet to establish whether it is more contagious or able to overcome the immunity provided by vaccines or prior infection.
The scientists said the C.1.2. contains many mutations associated in other variants with increased transmissibility and reduced sensitivity to neutralising antibodies but they occur in a different mix.
South Africa was the first country to detect the Beta variant, one of only four labelled “of concern” by the WHO. Genomic sequencing data from South Africa shows that the C.1.2. variant was still nowhere near displacing the dominant Delta variant.
Delta is the fastest and fittest variant the world has encountered, and it is upending assumptions about COVID-19 even as nations loosen restrictions and reopen their economies.
Lagos Assembly moves to end open grazing, considers VAT bill
The Lagos State House of Assembly says the Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill, when passed will ensure harmonious relationships between herders and farmers in the state.
The assembly made this known after the bill was read on the floor of the house for the second time, by the Acting Clerk, Olalekan Onafeko, at plenary on Monday.
It said the bill would also protect the environment of the state and the South-west zone.
The House also read for the first and second time, the state’s Value Added Tax (VAT) bill, and asked the Committee on Finance, which was handling it to report back on Thursday.
The Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, who described the Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill’ as timely, thereafter, committed the bill to the committee on agriculture for public hearing.
The speaker also suggested that the bill should make provision for the registration of herders, and prepare them for ranching.
“Allocating parcel of land is not enough, but there should also be training for those who will go into ranching, as ranching is expensive and requires adequate preparation,” he added.
Concerning the VAT bill, the speaker said it would further lead to an increase in revenue and infrastructural development.
”This is in line with fiscal federalism that we have been talking about,” he said.
Mr Obasa said the VAT law, when passed, would help the state meet challenges in its various sectors.
He also urged the Lagos State government to do everything legally possible, to ensure the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, was sustained even up to the Supreme Court.
The speaker lamented a situation where about N500 billion would be generated from the state, while N300 billion was generated from other South-west states, but paltry amounts would be disbursed to Lagos State in return.
Mr Obasa said it was an opportunity for the state to emphasise again, the need for the consideration of true federalism.
Speaking earlier on the bill on open grazing, Bisi Yusuff (Alimosho 1) lamented that farmers had continuously become afraid to visit their farms, thus causing shortage of food.
Mr Yusuff also said many farmers had become indebted, as they now found it difficult to pay back loans they secured.
His position was supported by Kehinde Joseph (Alimosho 2) who noted that the bill would ensure peaceful coexistence, reduce crime and help to guide the activities of herders.
Olumoh Lukeman (Ajeromi-Ifelodun 1) suggested that the high court should be made to handle cases from enforcement of the bill when passed, or that the state should establish special courts for such purpose.
Also, Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti-Osa 1) expressed support for the bill, noting that it would give a level of security to the state and help reduce economic losses.
He added that Lagos had 250 hectares of land in Ikorodu and another 750 hectares in Epe for ranching.
David Setonji (Badagry II), said: “There was a time we went on oversight function in a school here in Lagos. We were embarrassed by cattle. We had to wait for the herder to move the cattle before we embarked on our oversight function.”
Mr Setonji suggested a collaboration between the Neighbourhood Safety Corps and the police, in the implementation of the law when passed and assented to.
Other lawmakers who contributed during the plenary were Adedamola Kasunmu (Ikeja II), Rasheed Makinde Ifako Ijaiye II), and Sanni Okanlawon (Kosofe I).
Ngige: FG to recover millions wrongly paid to 588 doctors
The federal government says it is planning to recover “millions of naira wrongly paid to 588 medical doctors” across the country.
While fielding questions from state house correspondents, Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, said the affected doctors wrongly benefitted from the medical residency training fund meant for a particular category of doctors.
The minister said the names of the doctors were uncovered after a scrutinisation of the 8000 names submitted by chief medical directors of federal government health institutions for the training programme.
Ngige said a substantial amount of the money has been refunded by some of the affected doctors while efforts are being intensified to recover the remaining balance.
He said the delay in making the refund by the affected doctors is holding back the residency fund payment by the government.
“Ministry of health has gotten the list of doctors who supposedly are to benefit from the medical residency training fund,” he said.
“Total submission of about 8000 names were gotten and the ministry of health is scrutinising them.
“We have done the first round of scrutinisation and they will now compare what they have with the Post-Graduate Medical College and the chief medical directors who submitted the names.
“The Association of Resident Doctors, in each of the tertiary centres, worked with the CMDs to produce those names, but now that the names are being verified.
“We discovered that about 2000 names shouldn’t be there because they don’t have what is called Postgraduate Reference Numbers of National Postgraduate Medical College and (or) that of the West African Postgraduate Medical College.
“So, this is it and that is the only thing holding back the residency fund payment because it is there already for incurred expenditure has been done by the finance minister and it’s in the accountant-general’s office.”
“So, once they verify the authenticity of those they are submitting, the Accountant-General will pay.
“We are doing that verification because we do not want what happened last time in 2020 to reoccur.
“In 2020, the submitted names didn’t come through the appropriate source, which is the Postgraduate Medical College and payment was affected and it was discovered that about 588 persons, who were not resident doctors benefited from such money.
“They are now finding it difficult to make the full refund. But they have to refund that money. Some are refunding, but there is no full consideration of the account.
“That account has to be reconciled to enable the accountants pay the next round of funding for 2021.”
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has been on strike for a month over “irregular payment of salaries”, among other issues.
Efforts by stakeholders, including the national assembly, to mediate between the federal government and the resident doctors have not yielded results.
Insecurity: Kaduna suspends weekly market, bans livestock transportation
The Kaduna State government has suspended trading at the popular weekly Kawo market.
The order on Thursday came days after the government suspended similar markets in five other local government areas of the state.
Kawo market is one of the largest weekly markets in Kaduna North.
It is located in the same area as the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), the Hassan Usman Katsina House popularly know as State House and the Legislative Quarters.
According to a statement by the state commissioner of Internal Security and Homeland Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, on Thursday, “the Kawo weekly market which usually holds every Tuesday in Kaduna North LGA has been suspended with immediate effect”.
“The Government of Kaduna State wishes to highlight that the previous directives suspending weekly markets, and selling of petrol in jerrycans in Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kajuru LGAs, as well as banning the felling of trees for timber, firewood and charcoal and other commercial purposes in Birnin Gwari, Kachia, Kajuru, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kauru LGAs, are still in force.
“Citizens are hereby informed that all these directives will be vigorously enforced by security agencies.”
Also, the statement said the state government banned the transportation of livestock.
“The ban also prohibits the transportation of livestock into Kaduna state from other states. Both bans take effect immediately, from today 2nd September 2021.
“The government also wishes to reiterate that the transportation of donkeys into the state is a criminal offence and anyone found engaging in this will be prosecuted accordingly.”
Kawo Market ban
Many traders who spoke with news men in Kaduna welcomed the suspension of the weekly Kawo market.
Apart from the larger weekly trading, trading also takes place daily among residents of the neighbourhood.
Danladi Bala, a grain transporter, said the state government’s decision to suspend weekly trading in the market is right.
“Yes, we are traders here, but the recent suspension of weekly markets in other local government areas will make the Kawo market the target for criminal activities. They will all come here. It is a wise decision from the government,” he said.
Hajiya Mama, a trader, also said she was not suprised by the announcement.
“I trade in the market, but in the last two weeks we have been witnessing the influx of traders with large commodities.
“With the closure of weekly markets in Zamfara and other part of the state, this market will be an option for good or bad traders,” she said.
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