Dayo Ojerinde, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole, Dennis Naku, Adeyinka Adedipeand Abiodun Nejo
1 September 2021
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The Federal Government, on Tuesday, hinted that it might sanction anybody who refused to take COVID-19 vaccines after they had been made available to all Nigerians.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, gave the hint of possible sanctions at a press briefing in Abuja.
This was as a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Tuesday, barred the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, from enforcing compulsory COVID-19 vaccination in the state.
The Nigerian Medical Association and health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union faulted the move.
While the NMA said the people had the right to reject vaccines the same way they could reject medical treatment, JOHESU stated that the move to make vaccination compulsory was senseless.
Obaseki had last week said any resident of the state, who refused to take the vaccine, would be barred from public places and large gatherings.
Also on Monday, the Ondo State Government said it would bar those without a proof of vaccination from churches, mosques and other public places.
People rejecting vaccine endangering others, rules will be applied – NPHCDA boss
Shuaib hinted that the Federal Government might toe the line of the two state governments.
He said the Federal Government might “apply the basic rule of law” against such people, because they would be endangering the lives of others.
He stated, “The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health are 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, then we will 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.”
Mandatory vaccination not backed by common sense – JOHESU
JOHESU said the policy to compel all eligible citizens to get vaccinated did not make sense.
The spokesman for JOHESU, Mr Olumide Akintayo, in an interview with one of our correspondents, faulted state governments, which made COVID-19 vaccination compulsory.
He said the policy would only be sensible if there were enough vaccines to inoculate eligible citizens.
Akintayo stated, “If you are thinking of it in terms of responsibility, it makes sense; but practically, we all know it is an impossible task. If all the doses that have been sent to Nigeria since this outbreak is less than 10 million, how do you enforce that kind of policy in a country of over 200 million people?
“You don’t just come up with policies that are not backed by common sense; you don’t just say things because you want to talk. It would have made some sense if the vaccines are available for everyone.”
You can’t force people, enlighten them, NMA advises FG
The General Secretary of the NMA, Philips Ekpe, said citizens could not be forced to be vaccinated against COVID-19 the same way they had the right to reject medical treatment.
Rather than being forced, he said Nigerians should be made to understand the need to be vaccinated.
Ekpe said this in an interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday.
According to him, although they cannot be forced, citizens who refuse vaccination should stay in their houses so that they don’t endanger others.
He said, “The Federal Government needs to make people understand the reason why they need to be vaccinated. They have the right to say no. You cannot force people. People have the right to say no to medical treatment.
“But you should let them understand the dangers of not getting vaccinated. For example, if you want to travel out of the country, if you are not vaccinated, you will not be let in. The reason is because the other country you are going to won’t want to endanger the lives of its citizens.
“Let them understand the importance, but then if they refuse, they should stay in their houses and not go out and endanger others.”
Court restrains Obaseki
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, on Tuesday, granted an ex parte order restraining Obaseki and the Edo State Government from enforcing the directive mandating all residents of the state to compulsorily get vaccinated for COVID-19.
The applicant’s lead counsel, Echezona Etiaba, SAN, arguing on the motion filed by Charles Osaretin against the governor and five others, urged the court to order the 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.
Etiaba prayed the court to grant leave to serve the respondents by publishing the court processes in a national daily.
Justice Adamu Turaki-Mohammed, in his ruling, granted the ex parte order.
Turaki-Mohammed adjourned till September 10 hearing of the substantive motion.
Meanwhile, state governments and experts, on Tuesday, differed on compulsory vaccination.
Our target is to vaccinate 60% of residents – Lagos
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, on Tuesday, said that the state would not make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for eligible residents.
Omotoso, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the state planned to achieve herd immunity with the vaccination of over 60 per cent of its population.
He stated, “There are over 22 million people in Lagos State; I do not know where we can get the vaccines to take care of all the people in the state. The idea of making it compulsory in my own opinion does not occur now.
“What we are considering in Lagos is to vaccinate at least 60 per cent of people, who are qualified to receive the vaccine in order to achieve what the experts call herd immunity. We are expecting more vaccines to achieve this target.”
Vaccines not enough now, says Tomori
Also, a professor of virology, Oyewale Tomori, warned against making COVID-19 vaccination compulsory in the country.
In an interview with one of our correspondents, the expert said, “Enforcement is the only language we understand in this country. However, it should only come into effect when we have the vaccines available and not in this time of scarcity.”
But a virologist at the University of Maiduguri, Prof Marycelin Baba, commended the Federal Government for considering sanctions for individuals who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Baba, in an interview with The PUNCH, described the development as a welcome one.
He said, “For the first time, the Federal Government is right. This is a welcome development.
“People who are refusing to take the vaccine are doing that based on propaganda. There is no justification as regards that.
“This is a pandemic and it is not just any type of outbreak. It is not just about one person, but the whole world. Some individuals cannot endanger our lives.
“If the government does this and for the first time, I am proud to say this is a welcome idea.”
DSS quizzed our members for protesting against compulsory vaccination – Group
In Edo State, leaders of a group, the Equity International Initiatives, on Tuesday claimed that they were invited for interrogation by the Department of State Services after their demonstration against the state government’s plan to insist on the presentation of COVID-19 vaccination certificate before being allowed into public places.
Addressing a press conference in Benin, the Convener of the EII, Chris Iyama, said they were not bothered by the invitation and insisted that their seven-day ultimatum for the government to rescind its decision remained.
“We were invited by the DSS after our demonstration on Monday. We told them that having a rally is our right as enshrined in the constitution. We told them that the ultimatum we gave to the state government stood and after seven days, we were going to mobilise over 5,000 Edo people to the Government House, but I am sure that with what we have done so far, Governor Godwin Obaseki will have a rethink, because we know he is listening and I believe that with the court judgment, he will not go ahead with the threat,” he stated.
Also, a cleric, Bishop Osadolor Ochei, slammed the state leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria for allegedly supporting the position of the governor, saying, “CAN has no right under its own constitution to align with the government to force us as Christians and as ministers to be vaccinated.”
Meanwhile some civil servants were in a happy mood on Tuesday when they heard about the court injunction.
In Ekiti State, the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Task Force, Prof Mobolaji Aluko, said the state did not have any intention to make the vaccines compulsory for residents, but rather, it would further strengthen enforcement of measures aimed at containing the virus as well as ensure the prohibition of spreader events.
Aluko, in an interview with The PUNCH, said making it compulsory could be sensational and dramatic, but not reasonable in view of the limited number of available vaccines.
“What will happen is that people will just come up with fake documents indicating that they have been vaccinated. It will promote illicit documentation,” he added.
But the Enugu State Primary Health Care Development Agency said that it would suggest to the state government to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory.
The Executive Secretary of the agency, Dr George Ugwu, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone, said though the idea might not be feasible, he appealed to residents of the state to go to any primary health centre around them to get vaccinated.
He stated, “The idea of making COVID-19 vaccination compulsory is neither here nor there, because some of those who are propagating the idea themselves have not been vaccinated. The vaccines are there now, but people are not coming out for it.
“Like I said, we are just an agency of the government responsible for administering the vaccine, but we will sell the idea to the Executive arm of the government and if they approve it, so be it.”
AstraZeneca vaccine doses expire September, October, says NPHCDA
Meanwhile, the NPHCDA boss has said that vaccine doses donated by the United Kingdom will expire by the end of September.
He, however, said he was sure that the country would exhaust the doses before they expire.
Shuaib stated, “We have two batches of AstraZeneca. One batch will expire by the end of September, while the other batch will expire by the end of October.
“However, we are certain that the doses will be exhausted before their expiration.
“There has been a huge turnout of people wanting to be vaccinated. We would not have taken them if we were not sure that they would be exhausted.”
Shuaib added that vaccination had now been made mandatory for Nigerian pilgrims.
He said, “At this juncture, I would like to remind all Nigerians that evidence of vaccination against COVID-19 is now mandatory for all pilgrims to the holy cities of Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem.
“I, therefore, urge adherents of both religions, who are planning to perform pilgrimages next year or in the future, to get vaccinated now to avoid any delays