Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
Former governor of Anambra State and PDP vice presidential standard bearer in the 2019 presidential election Mr. Peter Obi has kicked against the federal government plan to charge at least $8 per person for Covid-19 vaccine saying, the amount is too high.
Speaking when he featured on a national television program monitored by the Daily Times, the former governor maintained that Nigeria needs only about N150 billion to procure COVID-19 vaccines.
Obi who lamented that there are issues of transparency regarding the procurement of vaccines stressed the need for the government to be more transparent concerning the vaccination exercise.
He insisted that the projected $8 cost per person is not necessary and can be far lower.
“Today, vaccine in India costs between $2 25 cents to $3. That is an average of $2.75 and if you say you are going to use N400 billion that is about $1bn. If you divide $1bn by $2.75cents each, that is about 350 million doses, which is far in excess of what we need.
“The World Health Organisaion, WHO said if each African should target 70 percent of its population. 70 percent of Nigeria is about 140 million so we are actually looking for 140 million doses.
Considering that some other people are going to give us some free, we actually do not need more than 120 million.
But even if we’re buying 140 million, we just need about three hundred and eighty-something million dollars which is about N150bn to buy It.” he said
The ex-governor who lamented that Nigeria would not have needed to spend so much in procuring vaccines if its National Vaccine Production Facility was still operational said, there was need for a wakeup call to be able to tackle future outbreak of pandemic.
“The issue of vaccine is one that I feel a sense of pain. Nigeria as a country in 1940 established what we called National Vaccine Production Facility domiciled in Yaba, and that was able to produce virtually all the vaccines we used in the days of smallpox, yellow fever, and that facility was shut down in 1991 to be refurbished and upgraded, there was nothing wrong with it.
“And till today that has been the case deliberately so that people can import vaccines and sell to the government.
“Now I hear that we are looking for N400bn, well I am at loss, our budget this year for health is N547bn. I do not know if they are going to take this vaccine procurement from it, because if they do, we are left with N147bn.
“If they have a N400bn budget to buy the vaccine, my suggestion, they don’t need to award contracts in this vaccine, let them just call Serum institute in India and plead with them.
I am sure they will even give us a discount. If they want, I can go for the negotiation. It will not cost more than $2 each’’, Obi added.
It could be recalled that the minister of health Dr Osagie Ehanire, had said in December 2020 that the federal government needs about N400 billion for COVID-19 vaccines.
According to Ehanire, the sum would be required to vaccinate 70 percent of Nigeria’s over 200 million populations, at $8 per person.
He also disclosed on Monday that the federal government is expecting 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in February.