Despite Denial, FG Earmarks N20 Billion For COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

The budget attracted condemnation online with many wondering why such an amount of money would be spent on distributing vaccines across the country.

According to a report by The PUNCH, the Federal Government has set aside N20bn for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines three months after denying a report by The PUNCH that N10.6bn had been set aside for distribution of vaccines across the country.

Citing a proposal presented to governors by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, this newspaper had reported on March 6, 2021 that N10.6bn would be spent on transportation of COVID-19 vaccines to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

The budget attracted condemnation online with many wondering why such an amount of money would be spent on distributing vaccines across the country.

In his response, the Executive Director of the NPHCDA , Faisal Shuaib, dismissed the report, claiming that the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 would handle transportation.

Shuaib said, “I mean, I’m hearing this from you for the first time. It doesn’t make any sense that on the one hand, we’ve communicated very clearly to Nigerians that CACOVID, a private sector initiative, has provided a cargo plane that will help deliver the vaccines from Abuja to all states that have functional airports.

“For those that do not have functional airports, there is a delivery van that will convey the vaccines from those airports to the states without functionality. I do not see how that is going to cost N10bn. So there is no truth in that information.

“The only cost we’re going to incur is the cost of delivering the vaccines from any airport to nearby states that don’t have functional airports. Clearly that cannot be N10.6bn. So it is not correct to say that the Federal Government is going to be expending N10.6bn to transport vaccines to the state. That is incredulous.”

However, a copy of the supplementary budget proposal which has been passed by the Senate shows that the budget for delivery of vaccines has increased to N20bn.

The line item reads in part, “Vaccines delivery cost to every ward (operational cost): Federal Government of Nigeria funding (100 per cent of the NEEDS). Ensuring availability of PHCs (Primary Healthcare Centres) and health workers to deliver vaccines- N20, 627, 323, 202.”

The executive had while submitting the budget to the lawmakers had said that it was for security and COVID-19.

Sources within the National Assembly told The PUNCH that some of the money had already been disbursed through the service wide vote.

The CACOVID initiative led by billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, had revealed last April that the private sector had raised N27bn for the COVID-19 response.

The United Bank for Africa Plc donated N3bn through the UBA Foundation to support the fight against coronavirus in Nigeria. Billionaire, Mike Adenuga, donated N1.5bn to the  Federal Government and Lagos State Government

Other wealthy members of the private sector including Femi Otedola, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Herbert Wigwe, Segun Agbaje and Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, all contributed N1bn each.

First Bank and Keystone Bank donated N1bn each while Modupe and Folorunsho Alakija, Nigerian industrialists, announced a donation of N1bn to support the fight against coronavirus.

All Progressives Congress stalwart, Bola Tinubu, contributed N200m to the cause while lotto boss, Mr. Kessington Adebutu, donated N300m.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and its partners in the private sector announced a donation of $30m (N11bn) last week to help combat the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant impact on the Nigerian economy.

However, some of the food items donated by CACOVID were hoarded and rebranded by several politicians across the country which was discovered during the #EndSARS protests of October 2020.

Attempts to get a response from the NPHCDA boss proved abortive as he neither responded to calls nor a WhatsApp message on Wednesday.

Similarly, the Chief Executive Officer of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, Zouera Youssoufou, who speaks on behalf of CACOVID, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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