Abuja — As the long-awaited 3.9 million doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses arrived in Nigeria via the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on Tuesday, March 2, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/ Transparency International Nigeria have demanded transparency and accountability in the distribution and vaccination processes.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, while thanking the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) scheme for the release and shipment of the about 3.9 million doses of the vaccine.
The statement reads in parts, "The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/ Transparency International Nigeria is pleased to learn that Nigeria has received about 3.9 million doses of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and the multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. CISLAC would like to thank the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) scheme formed to ensure fair access to vaccines for low- and middle-income states.
"This initiative led by the World Health Organization will ensure that no country is left behind according to the motto of the Sustainable Development Goals.
"CISLAC categorically states that the Nigerian government through the Covid-19 Presidential Task Force (PTF) and its members as the Ministry of Health, its related departments and agencies must ensure that the distribution and vaccination process is transparent and accountable to the public."
In recalling challenges that shrouded distribution of COVID-19 palliatives across the country, the statement pointed that there is need to investigate and prosecute those who diverted palliative materials and money meant for Nigerians at that time, "The distribution of the COVID-19 palliatives has not been without challenges. Nigerians saw diversion and hoarding of palliatives that showed abuse of power. We encourage the law enforcement to investigate Covid-19 relief abuses and corruption allegations.
"We, along with other partners, have repeatedly pointed at credible allegations of corruption and abuse of power. For example, between July 2020 and January 2021, the #FollowCOVID19Money project wrote about 30 FOI requests to MDAs. Many agencies could not account for the relief funds.
"We expect investigations and convictions for these crimes. The Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) the custodian of banking sector data showed that Nigerians trying to access several COVID-19 relief funds last year lost N2.75 billion to internet fraudsters and criminals that profit from lax security in the access to Covid-19 relief funds.
"Nigeria 2021 federal budget has large appropriations for the pandemic relief activities. These funds must be judiciously used to avoid leakages and systemic corruption, witnessed in similar schemes in the past."
Meanwhile, the statement acknowledged and welcomed adoption of "the T.E.A.C.H; "T: Traditional Vaccination Campaign Approach; E: Electronic Self-Registration by Eligible Nigerians; A: Assisted Electronic Registration of Eligible Nigerians; C: Concomitant Vaccination alongside Electronic Registration; H: House-to-House Electronic Registration".
"This protocol should be strictly followed and independently monitored. While outlining priority groups, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) mentioned Healthcare workers, Front line workers (including the Military, Police, Oil and Gas workers, Border Post officials) and strategic leaders.
"The last category of "strategic leaders" needs to be clearly explained to avoid ambiguity and suspicion amongst Nigerians. Verifiable data of vaccinated people must be proactively disclosed."
It also added that representatives of the media and civil society organizations are to be involved in the process on distribution process of vaccines and administration on citizens.
"The Ministry of Health and NPHCDA need to ensure that representatives of the media and civil society organizations are carried along in the distribution and vaccination process. This should be done in line with the proactive disclosure provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and the doctrine of openness.
"We call on the Government to include credible Civil Society Organisations, the international community representatives and media into the monitoring of the vaccination process.
"This action will encourage accountability and transparency and will prevent future scandals and reputational damage at times when Nigeria and the world request hundreds of millions of vaccines critical for ending the pandemic.
"As a responsible and patriotic organisation, we commit that nepotism, corruption and the abuse of power in the vaccination process will be our focus and will be revealed to the authorities and the public."
It warned that, "Every corruption scandal, nepotistic behaviour and profiteering of the lifesaving vaccine provided to Nigeria through the UN-sponsored COVAX facility will outrage Nigerians and the international community.
"Similar scandals in Lebanon led the World Bank to the cancellation of the pandemic relief programs. South American countries saw politicians skipping the line and getting vaccinated ahead of critical workers. This led to their dismissal and even imprisonment in some cases."
Vanguard News Nigeria