July 15, 2021

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Nigeria Doesn’t Need N400bn For COVID-19 Vaccines — Peter Obi

Former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, said yesterday that Nigeria doesn’t need more than N150 billion to procure COVID-19 vaccines.

Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, said in December 2020 that the federal government needs about N400 billion for COVID-19 vaccines.

According to Ehanire, N400 billion would be required to vaccinate 70 percent of Nigeria’s over 200 million population at $8 per person.

Commenting on the issue when he featured on ARISE Television yesterday, Obi said there are issues of transparency regarding the procurement of vaccines.

The ex-governor said Nigeria would not have needed to spend so much in procuring vaccines if its National Vaccine Production Facility was operational.

“The issue of vaccine is one that I feel a sense of pain. Nigeria as a country in 1940 established what we called National Vaccine Production Facility domiciled in Yaba, and that was able to produce virtually all the vaccines we used in the days of smallpox, yellow fever and that facility was shut down in 1991 to be refurbished and upgraded. There was nothing wrong with it and till today, that has been the case deliberately so that people can import vaccines and sell to the government.

“Now, I hear that we are looking for N400bn. Well, I am at loss. Our budget this year for health is N547bn. I don’t know if they are going to take this vaccine procurement from it because if they do, we are left with N147bn.

“For the vaccine procurement also, we need to have transparency in the procurement. Today, vaccine in India costs between $2 25 cents to $3. That is  an average of $2.75 and if you say you are going to use N400 billion, that is about $1bn. If you divide $1bn by $2.75cents each, that is about 350 million doses which is far in excess of what we need.

“World Health Organisation said if you can inject 70 percent of your population, that’s it. 70 percent of Nigeria is about 140 million so we  are actually looking for 140 million doses. Considering that some other people are going to give us some free, we actually don’t need more than 120 million. But even if we’re buying 140 million, we just need about three hundred and eighty-something million dollars which is about N150bn to buy it.

“If they have a N400bn budget to buy the vaccine, my  suggestion is, they don’t need to award contracts in this vaccine, let them just call Serum institute in India and plead with them. I am sure they will even give us discount. If they want, I can go for the negotiation. It won’t cost more than $2 each.”

On Monday, Enahire said the federal government is expecting 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in February.

The Vice Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in 2019 elections also explained why the cash transfer strategies employed by the Federal Government to lift people out of poverty will not work out in Nigeria.

Obi said that the planned N5000 disbursement to 24 million people for a period of 6 months will not achieve the desired results of pulling people out of poverty.

He argued that for one to be classified as living in poverty, the person will be earning $1.9 or less per day, which is approximately N800. He said that the N800 when  multiplied by 30 days amounts to N24,000, thus giving someone N5000 a month, when he needs at least N24,000 to survive, will have little or no effect, talk more of pulling them out of poverty.

“Now if you divide N5000 with N400 exchange rate, it will give you $12.50. When you divide $12.50 by 30 days, it gives you 42 cents. So by sharing N5000 per month to them, you are only giving them about 20% of the $1.9 they require to live above poverty. Worse still, you are only paying them the money for 6 months.

“Any government that desires to pull its people out of poverty should adopt a properly articulated fiscal and monetary stimulus to support micro, small, medium entreprises and also provide jobs that will pay people at least N25,000 per month”, Obi submitted.