The purchase of one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines has split leaders of Nigeria’s private sector with allegations of falsehood and insincerity being branded by top players.
Top industrial firm, BUA Group, has accused the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), which it is part of, of mischief and spreading false information.
BUA was reacting to a statement by CACOVID, disowning its (BUA) payment through CACOVID for one million AstraZeneca doses of COVID-19 vaccines for Nigeria via the AFREXIM bank.
BUA said it was utterly shocked by the statement from the coalition describing it as “petty.”
Earlier on Monday morning, BUA had announced that through the AFREXIM vaccine programme in partnership with CACOVID, that it secured one million vaccine doses which are expected to be delivered next week to become the first delivery of vaccines to Nigeria since the COVID-19 vaccines were certified for global use.
“BUA decided to secure these 1million vaccines by paying the full amount for the vaccines today (Monday) because these vaccines became available only last week through AFREXIM. We expect the vaccines to be delivered within the next 14 days and hope priority will be given to our frontline workers who have committed their lives to managing the pandemic,” a statement signed by BUA founder, Abdul Samad Rabiu, said.
He said the purchase was coordinated by the President of the Afrexim Bank, Benedict Oramah, and the Nigerian Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, through the CACOVID Private Sector partnership.
But shortly after the announcement, CACOVID issued a rebuttal, disowning BUA’s purported purchase of one million COVID-19 vaccines singlehandedly for Nigeria, saying that no individual company has the capacity to strike such a deal.
CACOVID is tasked with pulling private resources together to assist Nigerians and the government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Alhaji Abdulsamad must have been misquoted because these claims are not factual as CACOVID operates on a collegiate fund contribution model. There is no agreement between BUA, CACOVID, and Afreximbank”, CACOVID said in an official statement, PM News reported.
“During the CACOVID weekly call of February 8th, Governor Emefiele, relayed to the larger group a call that he held with Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Herbert Wigwe with Afreximbank President, Benedict Oramah on Sunday, Feb 7th. President Oramah briefed the 3 CACOVID leaders on the $2 billion facility the Bank has set up with the African Union Vaccine taskforce to purchase vaccines for the African Continent.
“The allocation for Nigeria has been capped at 42 million doses. President Oramah explained that 1 million doses were ready for shipment to Nigeria in the next 2 weeks if a down payment was made by today, February 8th,” the statement said.
CACOVID noted that at Monday’s meeting, its leadership agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria, and the 1 million doses from Afreximbank worth $3.45 million was the first tranche.
In a counter-response Monday evening, BUA management said it was utterly shocked by reports attributed to CACOVID, disowning its payment.
BUA insisted it singlehandedly paid for the one million doses, providing documents detailing how the payments were made.
It said it was aware that a prominent member of CACOVID is not happy that BUA took the initiative to pay for the vaccines. It did not name the member but BUA has had a long-running battle with the Dangote group.
The company accused CACOVID of trying to “scuttle” the plan to secure the vaccine by disowning the arrangement because, “they (CACOVID) were unable to take the initiative.”
“We find this release by CACOVID to be very petty and unbecoming of seemingly serious corporate citizens because it is tantamount to playing with Nigerian Lives. This is no time for politics. It is time for us to come together to help Nigerians and it does not matter who is helping or paying”, the company said.
BUA’s response to CACOVID was contained in company statement titled, ‘Rejoinder: BUA replied CACOVID – Don’t Play Politics with Nigerians lives.”
“At the cacovid steering committee meeting held today February 8, 2021 (of which BUA is a member), members were informed by the CBN Governor that CACOVID had been given the opportunity through the Afrexim Platform to access and pay for 1million doses provided payment was made today or tomorrow(Monday or Tuesday) – failure which the opportunity to get those doses next week may be lost.
“After extensive deliberations, there was no agreement reached, and despite members being offered the opportunity to donate funds towards the doses, none offered.
“BUA then took it upon itself to offer to pay for the 1million doses at the agreed rate of US$3.45 per dose totaling US$3,450,000,000.00 which translates to 1.311billion Naira.
“The Chairman of BUA also requested through the CBN governor that the Naira equivalent be paid to the relevant account with CBN, and that CBN forward the dollar payment to Afrexim on CACOVID’s behalf.
“This payment was made immediately after the meeting and BUA transferred the money to the CBN (see payment confirmation attached) in order to meet the deadline,” the statement read.
The payment slips provided by BUA showed the payments were made in three tranches to the CBN.
BUA said it would continue to support Nigeria’s COVID-19 response despite what it described as a petty action by CACOVID.
“We stand ready to keep supporting and despite this petty action, we have decided to let the money remain in the CACOVID Account with the CBN pending when they are ready to utilize the funds for Nigerians to access the vaccines.”
In recognition of the scale of the challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, on March 27, 2020, a private sector coalition, spearheaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria with the Aliko Dangote Foundation and Access Bank, announced the creation of CACOVID to mobilise private sector resources toward supporting the government’s response to the crisis.
Within three months, CACOVID mobilised more than $72 million in donations.
Members of CACOVID included Nestle, MTN, Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank and Abdulsamad Rabiu’s BUA Group.
While CACOVID has been lauded for galvanizing funds which have helped in the purchase of test kits, equipment, PPEs and relief packages for vulnerable people, its disbursement mechanism and operations has raised questions.
Reports of lopsided distribution of palliatives based on political and sectional prejudices have been rife with the recent squabble between CACOVID and BUA adding to a mix of controversy trailing the coalition.
CACOVID is yet to respond to BUA’s insistence that it single-handedly paid for the one million doses of vaccine.
Contacted for response, the number at the response directory on the CACOVID website was switched off. It was yet to reply text messages as of press time.
Nigeria wants to vaccinate as much as 50 per cent of its population against the coronavirus in 2021 but is yet to land its first batch of vaccines despite several arrangement and partnerships the country has keyed in to secure the much needed jabs.
Nigeria is expected to receive an initial 16 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines through the Vaccines Global Assess Facility, COVAX, by the end of February.
The country is also expecting an additional 42 million doses of the approved COVID-19 vaccines.
Health minister, Osagie Ehanire, while speaking at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing on Monday, said the 42 million doses would be delivered to the country through the African Union, African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT).
Mr Ehanire said Nigeria subscribed to two multilateral vaccine access platforms; the first being the COVAX facility which was set-up to divide over a billion doses of vaccines across 92 low-and middle-income countries.
The facility promised access to vaccines for up to 20 per cent of participating countries’ population with an initial supply beginning in the first quarter of the year to immunise three per cent of their populations.
The second platform is the AVATT, which has acquired 300 million doses of three types of vaccines to distribute to African countries based on their population, according to Mr Ehanire.
“We shall be offered over 42 million doses by AVATT. If all the projected vaccines are supplied, we estimate we should have covered over 45 per cent of the population”, the minister said.
Mr Ehanire also noted that Nigeria has had bilateral negotiations with Gamaleya of Russia over their Sputnik V vaccine, which has an efficacy of 91 per cent.
Meanwhile, health experts and analysts are questioning the feasibility of the vaccination plan pointing to the country’s weak storage system and distribution links.