18 October 2017

Nigeria: Rumour of Army Free Immunization Disrupts Activities in Rivers Schools

There was panic in primary and secondary schools in Rivers State, yesterday, following a rumour that the Nigerian Army had stormed schools with free immunization against Monkey Pox.

The same rumour that caused uproar in all states of the South-East, penultimate week, spread in Rivers State and forced all academic activities to be disrupted. The rumour had it that the military is vaccinating students with Monkey pox virus.

The panic was ignited by unknown sources in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state, especially, in schools around Nkpolu, Rumuagholu, Rumuosi, Rumuekini and Rumuokoro areas.

The news later spread to other parts of state as parents and guardians raced to schools to pick their wards, causing classrooms to be emptied before official closing hour.

Unconfirmed report had it that the Nigerian Army had in the cause of their operation Crocodile Smile II, initiated a health outreach to give vaccines to students against the outbreak of Monkey pox is some parts of the country.

The rumour of the vaccination caused pandemonium leading the military top hierarchy to clarify that the health programme has not started.

Students flee for safety

There was rowdiness in major streets of Port Harcourt as students who were terrified by the news left their classes, defying their teachers' orders to remain in school.

Parents were also seen running straight to their children's schools to pick their wards.

At Rumuosi community, a woman whose name was not ascertained at press time collapsed when she got to her son's school and could not find him, without her knowing that her child had followed his friends to hide.

We only saw NYSC members

A student of Community Secondary School, Rumuekini, Vincent (surname withheld) told Vanguard that the students in the school started running home in droves when they sighted a team of young people dressed in National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, uniform.

Vincent noted that students fled the classrooms when the team allegedly mentioned that they were on immunization programme.

A parent, who spoke at one of the schools said: "When I heard the rumour that soldiers were coming to my children's school for vaccination, I ran quickly to pick my children. I don't want them to be victims of the monkey pox disease.

"When I arrived here the school management refused to open the gate for us to pick our children. I told them that military people are forcefully injecting the primary school children in Mile 4. So we forced ourselves inside and picked our children."

Rumour is wicked -- Army

Meanwhile, the 6 Division Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt has dismissed the rumours of Monkey pox vaccination in the state.

Spokesman of 6 Division, Col Aminu Ilyasu, in a statement released in the hit of the panic by parents and guardians in the state over safety of their children said the army had a proposed plan for medical outreach and sanitation exercise in some communities under 6 Division but it had not started it.

The statement further assured families that it would not commence the exercise without proper sensitization of communities and relating with necessary organs in the various areas.

The army described those behind the rumour that caused tension and panic in several schools in the state as enemies of the state.

We didn't authorise any vaccination -- Rivers govt

Meanwhile, Rivers State Government has disclosed that it did not authorise the Nigeria Army or any other body to go into school premises to administer medication or vaccination on any child.

In a statement, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr Emma Okah, said: "Inoculation is personal and consent of the Rivers State Government and parents must first be sought and obtained before it can be administered on any school child in school premises."

He further enjoined all school heads and parents to resist any such attempt to vaccinate children, saying: "The State Government has set up a Task Force to ensure that no school premises is violated in the State for the purpose of imunising any child."

His words: "The attention of Headquarters 6 Division Nigerian Army has been drawn to some rumours making the rounds that some Nigerian Army Personnel are going round schools in Rivers State dressed in Military Camouflage uniforms with the intention of forcefully vaccinating students with an unknown substance.

The callous and unpatriotic rumours spread by these enemies of state are, to say the least, despicable, deplorable and highly condemnable by all well meaning Nigerians as they are intended to cause pandemonium among the general public.

"The authorities of 6 Division Nigerian Army wishes to inform the general public that while the Nigerian Army plans to undertake such gestures like free medical outreaches, sanitation exercises in host communities and distribution of educational materials as part of our community relations activities during the ongoing Operation CROCODILE SMILE II, these activities are yet to be conducted and will eventually be conducted with the consent of relevant authorities of designated communities and at venues and dates that will be duly communicated to the general public through future press releases and relevant posters.

"For the purpose of emphasis, the Nigerian Army does not and will never carry out its medical outreaches or vaccination exercises for that matter in Schools. We can therefore categorically inform the public that the ongoing rumours about Nigerian Army Personnel going round schools in military camouflage to forcefully immunize school children are not true and should therefore be discountenanced with.

"Additionally, members of the public are please requested to call 09072509436-8 to report any case of any impostor(s) that may be seen actually trying to commit such atrocities."

We didn't authorise any vaccination - Rivers govt

Meanwhile, the Rivers State Government has disclosed that it did not authorise the Nigeria Army or any other body to go into school premises to administer medication or vaccination on any child.

In a statement the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Barr Emma Okah, said "inoculation is personal and consent of the Rivers State Government and parents must first be sought and obtained before it can be administered on any school child in school premises."

He further enjoined all school heads and parents to resist any such attempt to vaccinate children, saying: "The State Government has set up a Task Force to ensure that no school premises is violated in the State for the purpose of imunising any child."

Also, the Commissioner of Health In the state, Prof. Peincewill Chike, noted that the news of the attempt to vaccinate pupils and students was a rumour, adding that the state was not on any immunization.

Chike said he has contacted the army PRO on the development and has been assured that there was no programme of such.

Urging the public to maintain good hygiene, he disclosed that there is no case of Monkey pox in the state, stressing that the three reported cases have been confirmed to be chicken pox.

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