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The Lowdown Hub

Nigeria and COVID-19, NIN, etc.: leadership desperately needed, N400bn for COVID-19 vaccines.

IT is an understatement to suggest that Nigerian leaders are unprepared for high office. For over 10 years, they have battled insurgency ineptly and are no nearer knocking the crisis into a cocked hat than they were at the beginning when, with unsteady gaits and tentative steps, they tried to dismantle the religious indoctrination erected by Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf. In the middle of the insurgency, they have even adopted the harebrained idea of rehabilitating and, as they put it unconvincingly and scornfully, deradicalizing Boko Haram militants, despite the poor attention given to beleaguered fighting troops, internally displaced persons, and those widowed by the unending war. The counterinsurgency operations of the government exemplify a total misplacement of priorities, thus giving an indication of the poverty of leadership disabling the country. There are of course other disconcerting emblems of the poor leadership undermining the peace, stability, and development of the country. Set below are a few of such emblems, all pointing to the urgent need for the enthronement of sound national leadership.

N400bn for COVID-19 vaccines:

The government plans to spend this whopping amount to procure vaccines to tackle this new and frightening plague. However, the proposed budget for the health sector is N632bn in 2021, and N340bn in 2018 to get a comparative picture. The actual release may be smaller. Between 2006 and 2018, capital expenditure proposed for the health sector only reached N60bn in 2013. All other years were considerably smaller. How does any government defend N400bn for vaccines for a disease that has so far killed fewer than 1,500 people and infected less than 90,000? Meanwhile, every day, some 2,300 under-five-year-old and 145 women of childbearing age die from preventable causes. The neonatal mortality rate is also about 37 per 1000 live births or 250,000 every year. In addition, Malaria killed about 95,000 in Nigeria alone in 2018. These figures have not triggered the same kind of panicky response as COVID-19. Worse, Nigeria takes all its cues from Europe and America to formulate a national response to COVID-19. When the developed countries went for a lockdown, Nigeria heedlessly followed suit but without implementing relevant economic safeguards. Now Europe is rushing vaccines into the market, and Nigeria is waiting for the same vaccines rather than developing its own.

No consideration for Nigeria/ECOWAS vaccine:

Amidst the flurry of global vaccine developments to combat COVID-19, neither Nigeria nor any other country in West Africa has considered it urgent or needful to fashion their vaccine responses. Last Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Affairs minister, Wang Yi, visited Nigeria, among other things, to market Coronavirus vaccines developed by two Chinese firms, Sinopharm and Sinovac. On behalf of Nigeria, Foreign Affairs minister Geofrey Onyeama has indicated an interest in receiving supplies. Perhaps to concretize the anticipated deal, the Chinese have underscored their interest in continuing to su