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BUA Group and the private sector group set up to raise funds to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), on Tuesday clashed over media reports that the former had purchased a million doses of COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccines through Afreximbank for Nigerians.
BUA: we received CACOVID’s position with shock
The BUA Group, in a statement, said it received with utter shock, reports allegedly attributed to CACOVID, disowning its earlier payment through CACOVID for 1 million AstraZeneca doses for the citizens.
It alluded to a steering committee meeting held on Monday, February 8, 2021, where CACOVID members were informed by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, that the coalition had been given the opportunity through the AFREXIM platform to access and pay for one million doses, under the condition that payment was to be made immediately, but not later than tomorrow (today), “failure which the opportunity to get those doses next week” would lapse.
“After extensive deliberations,” the BUA Group statement indicated, “there was no agreement reached and despite members being offered the opportunity to donate funds towards procuring the doses, none offered.”
Why we paid for one million doses, by firm
BUA, according to the statement, “took it upon itself to offer to pay for the one million doses at the agreed rate of US$3.45 per dose totalling US$3.45million (about N1.311billion).”
Chairman of BUA Group Abdulsamad Rabiu, thereafter “requested through the CBN governor that the Naira equivalent be paid to the relevant account with CBN,” and that the CBN should forward “the dollar payment to AFREXIM on CACOVID’s behalf”.
“This payment,” BUA said, “was made immediately after the meeting and BUA subsequently transferred the money to the CBN in order to meet the deadline.”
However, with this development by the CACOVID operations committee, BUA lamented, “we now have just cause to believe that some members of CACOVID were not happy that BUA took this initiative in the interest of Nigeria and to ensure that the deadline was met to receive the one million doses of the vaccine next week”.
BUA, in its statement, said it did this “gesture in good faith as it has done with its interventions throughout the pandemic”.
A coalition member not happy we paid, says BUA
“We will, however, like to state clearly that we are aware that a prominent member of CACOVID is not happy that BUA took the initiative to pay for the vaccines,” BUA stated.
CACOVID: only Fed Govt can procure vaccines
But, CACOVID explained that only the Federal Government, through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), can obtain any COVID-19 vaccine for Nigeria in the ongoing fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.
The coalition stated that the process of buying the vaccines through the Federal Government has commenced and that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as an official regulatory body, has to approve the vaccine and certify it before use by Nigerians.
The Administrator of CACOVID, Mrs. Zouera Youssoufou, gave the coalition’s positions while speaking in Lagos during the Global Business Report programme on ARISE TV News.
‘How CACOVID Collegiate Fund works’
Responding to questions on how the CACOVID Collegiate Fund Works, Mrs. Youssoufou, said: “The way this works is that we, as a group, agree on what to actually purchase, on how to purchase it and what the modalities of the purchase would be. This is how the group has been working since we were created back in March 2020. As you know we have several things including testing, test kits and getting isolation centres, PPEs, palliatives, communications among many others.
“So, the purchase of the vaccines is very similar to the purchase of the testing supplies, meaning that we do this through very validated and subsidised means. Right now there are three mechanisms that Nigeria is participating in. One called COVAX, one called the African Union Vaccine Acquisition Task Force, which is funded by Afreximbank, and the third one is the World Bank, which is also funding some of these vaccines.
“Nigeria as a country is a member of all these organisations. We as the CACOVID, the private sector coalition against COVID-19, our role is to support our government in what is needed in order to help our people in the context of this COVID-19. So, I think the important thing that we all need to know is that there are several steps to procuring vaccines. The first thing is that governments are the ones who can actually buy vaccines. So, we as a private-sector group, as individual companies, cannot buy vaccines, we can’t call AstraZeneca or Pfizer or Moderna to order vaccines from them. That is the first thing.
“The second thing is that the distribution of the vaccines and how they would be shared in our country has to be done by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), which is the only agency in our country mandated to handle vaccines and so far, as you know people, children are being vaccinated everyday BCG, Polio. So, those vaccines and that whole process is managed by the NPHCDA and they are going to be the ones managing this process too. So it is not a matter of sending money to the Central Bank, that is one step. But the real step is how do we get the vaccines into Nigeria and how do we distribute them to the people.
NAFDAC must approve vaccine, says Youssoufou
“I think the most over-looked element in this discussion on that aspect about getting vaccines next week, is that AstraZeneca or any vaccine has yet to be approved by NAFDAC, which is our regulatory agency. So, without the approval of NAFDAC, there is no vaccine that can come into Nigeria and be distributed to Nigerians or shot into the arms of Nigerians. And I think this is where some of the misinformation had come in.”
On the statement from BUA that the Central Bank of Nigeria put out a call to the CACOVID members on a small window through which to procure these vaccines, where someone had to step and they (BUA) came in and put up the money, Mrs. Youssoufou explained how she put a call with the Afreximbank President on February 7 with Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe and Godwin Emefiele, and in that call, President Oranmah Benedict explained to CACOVID members their “model and how they are working with the AU and how they have set up a $2 billion facility to help fund the vaccines for Nigeria and for African countries, and that the allocation of 42 million vaccines had been made for Nigeria”.
“He also told us about an extra one million doses that we can get if we can confirm that we wanted those doses immediately by the next day February 8. And so CACOVID leaders agreed that yes, this was a good thing and would bring it to the meeting the very next day, which happened. So, we had the meeting yesterday (February 8) and that discussion actually happened. What is really important to know is that Afreximbank, after that call, already secured those doses for Nigeria because they had the confirmation from the Central Bank Governor, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and Herbert Wigwe that they would pay for these one million doses.
How one million doses will come in, by Coalition
“Now, the doses don’t come in; it’s not as if we get a million doses of vaccines one day getting dumped into Nigeria; they get delivered at a specific pace. So, we might get a hundred thousand (100,000) immediately, 150,000 the next week, and then let’s say another hundred thousand. So, we will never get a million doses in one single day coming into Nigeria at once. And in order for that to happen, we have to work very closely with both the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, which I just explained are the ones who would be managing this process of getting the vaccine into people’s arms, but also sorting out the logistics.”
She added: “So nobody is disputing a transfer into Central Bank account; nobody is saying that did not happen, that is not where the challenge is. The challenge is the claim that one company has brought vaccines into Nigeria because that is not factual
“These claims are not factual as CACOVID operates on a collegiate fund contribution model. There is no agreement between BUA, CACOVID and Afreximbank.”
“We are planning $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria,”
According to her, CACOVID leadership agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria, noting that “these 1 million doses from Afreximbank worth $3.45 million, is the very first tranche”.
“CACOVID will purchase vaccines through other credible and subsidised mechanisms such as COVAX,” she added.