BUA Group Versus CACOVID Photo: Vanguard

Whither the confrontation between BUA Group, CACOVID over COVID-19 vaccination?

*The Federal Government of Nigeria has announced it bars the private sector of the economy from administering COVID-19 vaccines, as it reserves the vaccination exclusively for the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency

*We are aware that a prominent member of CACOVID is not happy that BUA took the initiative to pay for the vaccines, says BUA Group

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

As some countries in the global community are already immunising their citizens against the fatal novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, several hundreds of people continue to get infected while many die in Nigeria almost on a daily basis in recent weeks.

But the major stakeholders in the country yet appear to be at loggerheads as regards who should import what virus vaccines into the country till this day.

Following the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) Operations Committee’s meeting, a dispute arose Monday night between the BUA Group, a leading food and infrastructure conglomerate in the country, and CACOVID over claims by the former, that it had purchased a million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for the country, report said.

Incidentally, the Federal Government Monday, February 8, 2021, prohibited the private sector of the economy from administering COVID-19 vaccines, as it reserves the vaccination exclusively for the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) for safety reasons.

Earlier, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Honourable Minister for Health, during a media briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Monday, in Abuja, FCT, disclosed that the government is restricting the deployment and implementation of the vaccination programme to NPHCDA and would not allow private sector vaccination.

The Minister explained that it is for purposes of safe and proper management of the COVID-19 vaccination, including dealing with any after-effects that the Federal Government has decided to prevent the private sector from vaccination.

Ehanire noted the government would soon receive over 42 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for about 45 percent of the Nigerian population from the African Union (AU).

Nigeria has also subscribed to two multilateral vaccine access platforms; the first being the Covax facility that will supply members, including Nigeria, vaccines free to cover 20 per cent of the population, according to the Minister.

However, BUA in a statement same Monday afternoon ‘claimed’ that it had paid for a million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for the country through the Afrexim Vaccine programme in partnership with CACOVID.

The conglomerate, which stated the said vaccines would be distributed at no cost to Nigerians, also claimed that the a million doses would be delivered next week while pledging to purchase five million additional vaccine doses on the strength of the BUA/CACOVID/Afrexim partnership.

The statement quoted Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu, Founder of BUA as saying: “BUA decided to secure these 1 million vaccines by paying the full amount for the vaccines today 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.”

Nevertheless, the CACOVID Operations Committee in a statement Monday night, unambiguously disowned BUA’s contribution of COVID-19 vaccine.

The private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 said it was dismayed to learn of reports alleging that BUA had ‘singlehandedly’ purchased a million COVID-19 vaccine doses for Nigeria.

The statement read in part: “The CACOVID statement read: “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.”

CACOVID noted Alhaji Rabiu must have been misquoted because the claims were not factual as CACOVID operates on a collegiate fund contribution model.

There is no agreement between BUA, CACOVID and Afreximbank in this regard, declared the statement.

According to the statement, CACOVID leadership agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for the country with the a million doses from Afreximbank worth $3.45 million, being the very first tranche.

It stated the vaccines would be delivered to Nigeria and distributed through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) of the Federal Government.

The group noted the purchase is only possible through the Federal Government because no individual or company could purchase vaccines directly from any legitimate and recognised manufacturer.

The statement further said: “At today’s meeting, CACOVID leadership agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria, these 1 million doses from Afreximbank worth $3.45 million, being the very first tranche.

“CACOVID will purchase vaccines through other credible and subsidized mechanisms such as COVAX.

“The vaccines will be delivered to Nigeria and distributed through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA).

“CACOVID would like the Nigerian public to understand that vaccine purchase is only possible through the Federal Government of Nigeria, and that no individual or company can purchase vaccines directly from any legitimate and recognised manufacturer.”

But BUA would have none of these explanations by the CACOVID Operations Committee as the company, in a swift reaction Monday night, issued yet another statement disputing CACOVID’s claim on the vaccine doses.

The conglomerate stated it received with utter shock, reports purportedly credited to CACOVID disowning its earlier payment through CACOVID for a million AstraZeneca doses for the country via the Afrexim vaccine platform.

BUA said: “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 1 million doses, provided payment was made today or tomorrow – 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 procuring the doses, none offered.”

According to the conglomerate, “BUA then took it upon itself to offer to pay for the 1 million doses at the agreed rate of US$3.45 per dose totalling US$3,450,000,000.00 which translates to 1.31 billion 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.”

The statement further noted that “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.

“However, with this development by the CACOVID Operations Committee, 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 1 million doses of the vaccine next week.

“BUA did this gesture in good faith as it has done with its interventions throughout the pandemic.

The statement stressed: “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 – fulfilling our pledge just as we said during the meeting.

“Now they want to scuttle it by this action because they were unable to take the initiative.”

BUA added: “We find this release by CACOVID to be very petty and unbecoming of seemingly serious corporate citizens because it is tantamount to playing politics with the lives of Nigerians.

“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.

“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 utilise the funds for Nigeria to access the vaccines.”

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