The Federal Government has refuted insinuations that the military was vaccinating to spread the monkey pox virus nationwide. The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, who made the clarification yesterday in Abuja, declared that the military was only carrying out a campaign to win the hearts of Nigerians through one of its numerous outreaches, even as the virus reportedly spreads to 11 states with 74 suspected cases.
He said his ministry was carrying out an advanced test at the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics and Infectious Disease to properly understand the genomes of the virus.
"Laboratory attendants should be able to tell us what exactly they are. We will also be able to locate and identify the origin so that we can take adequate precaution," the minister stated.
Addressing State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, Adewole said the vaccination in the South-South and South-East was routine.
He said the military, in consonance with its corporate social responsibility (CSR), engages in many things, including road construction and blood measurement.
Noting these were normal exercises, the minister said the military had, in the past, assisted government in accessing hitherto no-go areas in Borno State with a view to broadening the polio campaign.
"There are doctors in the military, there are nurses and when you go abroad, some of the best institutions are those ones managed by the military," he added.
The minister also dismissed as untrue the reports that the Federal Government was carrying out vaccination nationwide, saying what the ministry is doing was a campaign against yellow fever in Kwara, Kogi and Borno states.
He noted that government would not conduct any such exercise vaccination without the active participation of the ministry.
On the speculated illegal cartel of kidney and other organ traffickers, Adewole urged Nigerians to patronise only accredited medical institutions, just as he hinted that government was making move to rebuild health infrastructure in the country to check medical tourism.
To the growing abuse of tobacco and other drugs by youths, the minister said government was working with the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria to educate people on the danger.
"We are part of the campaign against tobacco. We are implementing the framework convention to prevent smuggling and raise taxes on the products," he stated.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) have differed over the vaccination scare which crippled business activities in Rivers State.
In a statement yesterday in Port Harcourt, the state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Chris Finebone, accused the PDP and the state government of being the originator of the rumour.
He said the development was aimed at discrediting the activities of the army in the region ahead of the 2019 general elections.
But the Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Samuel Nwanosike, dismissed the allegation as baseless, stating that it was wrong for any group to finger the government for the rumour.
Also yesterday, the Minister of Health insisted that only the central government, states, local councils and relevant government agencies that could administer vaccine on pupils nationwide.
The minister, who spoke through the ministry's Director of Media, Mrs. Boade Akinola, charged Nigerians to disregard the rumour in parts of the country that the military was undertaking the exercise.
He pledged that any vaccination exercise would be done in conjunction with states and local council areas.
Besides, the authorities of the 2 Brigade of the Nigerian Army headquarters in Akwa Ibom State and the police command have advised parents to remain calm in the face of numerous unhealthy rumours.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Elkana Bala, said his men had visited a number of schools only for the head teachers to explain that: "We just see parents coming to pick their wards, no pupil has been vaccinated in this school and nobody has died."