A dispute arose Monday night between the a leading food and infrastructure conglomerate, BUA, and the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) over claims by BUA that it had purchased one million doses of Covid-19 vaccine for Nigeria.
This came on a day the federal government barred the private sector from administering COVID-19 vaccine, reserving the vaccination exclusively for the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) for safety reasons.
BUA had claimed in a statement on Monday that it had paid for one million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for Nigeria through the AFREXIM Vaccine programme in partnership with CACOVID.
The company, which said the vaccines would be distributed at no cost to Nigerians, had also claimed that the one million doses would be delivered next week, pledging to buy additional 5m vaccines through BUA/CACOVID/AFREXIM partnership.
BUA in a statement Monday afternoon quoting its founder, Abdul Samad Rabiu, had said: “BUA decided to secure these 1million vaccines by paying the full amount for the vaccines today because these vaccines became available only last week through AFREXIM. We expect the vaccines to be delivered within the next 14 days and hope priority will be given to our frontline workers who have committed their lives to managing the pandemic.”
CACOVID in a statement Monday night however disowned BUA’s contribution of COVID-19 vaccine.
In the statement issued by CACOVID Operations Committee, the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 said it was dismayed to learn of reports alleging that BUA had singlehandedly purchased one million COVID-19 vaccine doses for Nigeria.
It said that BUA’s founder Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu must have been misquoted because the claims were not factual as CACOVID operates on a collegiate fund contribution model, adding that there is no agreement between BUA, CACOVID and Afreximbank.
The statement said at its meeting on Monday, CACOVID leadership agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria, with the one million doses from Afreximbank worth $3.45 million, being the very first tranche.
The vaccines, it further stated, would be delivered to Nigeria and distributed through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA). It said the purchase was only possible through the Federal Government because no individual or company could purchase vaccines directly from any legitimate and recognized manufacturer.
The CACOVID statement read: “During the CACOVID weekly call of February 8th, Governor Emefiele, relayed to the larger group a call that he held with Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Herbert Wigwe with Afreximbank President, Benedict Oramah on Sunday Feb 7th. President Oramah briefed the 3 CACOVID leaders on the $2 billion facility the Bank has set up with the African Union Vaccine taskforce to purchase vaccines for the African Continent. The allocation for Nigeria has been capped at 42 million doses. President Oramah explained that 1 million doses were ready for shipment to Nigeria in the next 2 weeks if a down payment was made by today, February 8th.
“At today’s meeting, CACOVID leadership agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria, these 1 million doses from Afreximbank worth $3.45 million, being the very first tranche. CACOVID will purchase vaccines through other credible and subsidized mechanisms such as COVAX.
“The vaccines will be delivered to Nigeria and distributed through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA).
“CACOVID would like the Nigerian public to understand that vaccine purchase is only possible through the Federal Government of Nigeria, and that no individual or company can purchase vaccines directly from any legitimate and recognized manufacturer.”
In a swift reaction Monday night, BUA issued another statement disputing CACOVID’s claim.
The company said it received with utter shock, reports allegedly attributed to CACOVID, disowning its earlier payment through CACOVID for one million AstraZeneca doses for Nigeria via the AFREXIM vaccine platform.
BUA’s statement read: “At the CACOVID steering committee meeting held today February 8, 2021 (of which BUA is a member), members were informed by the CBN governor that CACOVID had been given the opportunity through the Afrexim platform to access and pay for 1million doses, provided payment was made today or tomorrow – failure which the opportunity to get those doses next week may be lost.
“After extensive deliberations, there was no agreement reached and despite members being offered the opportunity to donate funds towards procuring the doses, none offered. BUA then took it upon itself to offer to pay for the 1million doses at the agreed rate of US$3.45 per dose totalling US$3,450,000,000.00 which translates to 1.31 billion Naira.
“The Chairman of BUA also requested through the CBN governor that the Naira equivalent be paid to the relevant account with CBN, and that CBN forward the dollar payment to Afrexim on CACOVID’s behalf.
“This payment was made immediately after the meeting and BUA transferred the money to the CBN (see payment confirmation attached.) in order to meet the deadline. However, with this development by the CACOVID operations committee, we now have just cause to believe that some members of CACOVID were not happy that BUA took this initiative in the interest of Nigeria and to ensure that the deadline was met to receive the 1 million doses of the vaccine next week.
“BUA did this gesture in good faith as it has done with its interventions throughout the pandemic.
“We will however like to state clearly that we are aware that a prominent member of CACOVID is not happy that BUA took the initiative to pay for the vaccines – fulfilling our pledge just as we said during the meeting. Now they want to scuttle it by this action because they were unable to take the initiative.
“We find this release by CACOVID to be very petty and unbecoming of seemingly serious corporate citizens because it is tantamount to playing politics with the lives of Nigerians. This is no time for politics, it is time for us to come together to help Nigerians and it does not matter who is helping or paying.
“We stand ready to keep supporting and despite this petty action, we have decided to let the money remain in the CACOVID Account with the CBN pending when they are ready to utilize the funds for Nigeria to access the vaccines.”
Meanwhile, the federal government has barred the private sector from administering COVID-19 vaccine, reserving the vaccination exclusively for the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) for safety reasons.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said at a media briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja Monday that the government was restricting the deployment and implementation of the vaccination programme to NPHCDA and will not allow private sector vaccination.
Ehanire explained that it was for purposes of safe and proper management of the COVID-19 vaccination, including dealing with any after-effects that the federal government banned the private sector from vaccination.
The federal government also said it would soon receive over 42 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for about 45 per cent of the country’s population from the African Union (AU).
It said Nigeria subscribed to two multilateral vaccine access platforms; the first being the COVAX facility that will supply members, including Nigeria, vaccines free to cover 20 per cent of the population.
Giving an update on COVID-19 procurement, Ehanire said the country had subscribed to two multilateral vaccine access platforms, COVAX facility being brokered under the auspices of the AU.
He added that the other multilateral platform was the African Union (AVATT) platform, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, chaired by the President of South Africa, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa from which Nigeria expects to get a total of 44 million doses of vaccines.
According to him, the first batch of the vaccines expected from the Covax facility, which is free, will cover 20 per cent of Nigeria’s population.
Also, aside from the expected first batch of 100,000 vaccines from Covax facility, there has now been a change that now offers Nigeria 16 million vaccine doses in the first half of the year.
On the vaccine acquisition by the AU, Ehanire said there was positive development which showed vaccine doses being acquired by AVATT may increase to 400 million.