By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Chioma Onuegbu
•Says 74 suspected Monkey pox cases reported in 11 states
•Warns Nigerians to beware of cartel of kidney traffickers
•Health Ministry vaccination campaign going on in 3 states
•Army, Police allay fears over killer vaccines in A/Ibom, others
ABUJA—THE Federal Government, yesterday, exonerated the military from allegations of vaccination and injection of monkey pox virus on citizens in the South-East and South-South regions of the country.
The Federal Government also announced at yesterday’s Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, that there were 74 suspected cases of monkey pox across 11 states of the federation, stressing that the only confirmed cases were those recorded in Bayelsa State.
Government’s statement came on a day Nigerian Army Headquarters, 2 Brigade, Akwa Ibom State and the state police command advised parents not to panic over rumour of killer vaccines, which had been making the rounds in some parts of the country, especially the South-East and South-South.
The clarifications came against the backdrop of the panic that had hit states in the South-East, South-South and Ondo State, which culminated in parents withdrawing their children and wards from schools.
Briefing State House correspondents after the FEC meeting, Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole said the military is not involved in any vaccination as being rumoured, adding that the government had embarked on an advance test at the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics and Infectious Disease to really understand the genomes of the monkey pox virus.
He said: “Council received an update on the state of public health of the nation. We informed Council about the latest development, with respect to the Monkey Pox virus outbreak. So far, there are 74 suspected cases in 11 states of the country.
“We have confirmed three in Bayelsa State, and 12 of the suspected cases in Bayelsa tested negative; four suspected cases from Lagos tested negative. We are still expecting results of the other ones.
“We are also doing advance test at the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics and Infectious Disease to really understand the genomes of this virus. Even when they are negative, the laboratory attendants should be able to tell us what exactly they are.
‘’We will also be able to locate and identify the origin so that we can take adequate precautions.”
Military not vaccinating against monkey pox
On allegations of vaccination by the military, he said: “It is also important to use this opportunity to dispel rumours circulating in the country that the military is vaccinating people and trying to spread monkey pox virus across the country.
“The military is not involved in any vaccination and I must also really educate the Nigeria people about how vaccination campaigns are done. The Federal Government will take the lead but we do not conduct campaigns without working with states.
“So, there is no way we will do campaigns without working with the states and it is the states that will be in front and we provide support. The rumour that the Federal Government is doing (monkey pox) vaccination campaign is not true. And as of today, we are only doing vaccination campaign in three states.
“We are doing vaccination campaign against yellow fever in Kwara and Kogi states because of yellow fever outbreak in some parts of the country. We are also doing cholera vaccination in Borno State.
“So anybody carrying the rumour, please help us educate Nigerians that it is not true, we are not vaccinating anybody, we plan to do measles campaign very soon and we will also do yellow fever before the end of the year and we will let you know.
“You will never find federal staff conducting vaccination campaign without the support and active participation of the state ministry of health. This is just to correct the misconception.
What the military is doing
“With respect to what the military is doing, I spoke about vaccination and not about military campaign. The military as part of a campaign of winning over the heart and soul of the people will get engaged in several things.
“In the past, the military was noted for even constructing roads; the military will do outreaches, measure blood pressure, talk to people, these are normal things.
“I referred only to vaccination. We had to request for the assistance of the military in Borno State to reach inaccessible areas, with respect to the polio campaign, so we have worked with the military in the past and we will continue to work with them.
“There are doctors in the military, there are nurses and when you go abroad, some of the best institutions abroad are those managed by the military. So we cannot disown the military. But what I want to put across is that the military is not involved in any vaccination.”
Illegal cartel of kidney traffickers
The Health Minister also advised Nigerians to seek medical advice from only accredited institutions so as not to fall victim of harvest of organs.
He said his ministry receives advice periodically from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the National Security Adviser about goings on around the world, “one of which is the harvest of organs illegally and it is our duty to alert Nigerians that this is ongoing. They should be careful, they should seek advice, they should patronize only accredited institutions.
“As we rebuild our health infrastructure, there will be less need for anybody to travel out and so we spare Nigerians the agony of falling victims of some of these illegal practices”, he said.
Commenting on growing drug abuse among the youth, Professor Adewole said the Federal Government is aware of the ugly trend and that it is taking several steps, including on abuse of substances smuggled into the country in higher doses than normal.
He said: “For example, we have metadol and tramadol and even Viagra being smuggled into the country. Look at the dosage, the Viagra dosage is three times normal and when you look at tramadol it is three to four times normal and once NAFDAC officials come in contact, they are impounded and destroyed.
“We are also working with the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria to educate people about the abuses. We are aware of the abuse of cough mixtures because of the content and we are working hard in respect of this.”
No killer vaccines in Akwa Ibom —Army, Police
Meanwhile, Headquarters of Nigerian Army, 2 Brigade, Akwa Ibom State, and the state police command have advised parents not to panic over rumours of killer vaccines, saying there is no truth in the rumour making the round that the Army was injecting pupils with Monkey pox virus.
There was pandemonium, yesterday, in primary schools in Oron Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, that some military officers had arrived some schools in the state with a motive to depopulate the region through injecting people with Monkey pox virus.
Parents who had earlier dropped their wards in schools, particularly in Oron, Eket and Uyo metropolis, rushed back to withdraw them as a result of the rumour.
But speaking in a telephone interview, yesterday, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Bala Elkana, said when policemen visited the schools including those along Oron Road, Uyo, the head teachers explained that they were surprised to see parents coming to pick their wards.
According to Elkana the head teachers also said no pupil was vaccinated in their schools.
Also in a press statement by the Public Relations Officer of Headquarters, 2 Brigade Nigerian Army, Uyo, Major Umar Shuaib, the Army corroborated police statement that the Army is not vaccinating school children as rumoured.
The statement read: “The attention of Headquarters 2 Brigade Nigerian Army has been drawn to some rumours making the rounds that some Nigerian Army personnel are going round schools in Akwa Ibom State dressed in military camouflage uniforms with the intention to forcibly vaccinate students with an unknown substance.
“The callous and unpatriotic rumours spread by these enemies of state are, to say the least, despicable, deplorable and highly condemnable as they are intended to cause pandemonium among the general public.”
“The authorities of 2 Brigade, Nigerian Army, wishes to inform the general public that the Brigade is currently involved in Operation CROCODILE SMILE II, which is yielding tremendous successes, especially in curbing the excesses and activities of criminals, cultists and other miscreants in Akwa Ibom State which is being applauded by the affected communities.
“For emphasis, therefore, the 2 Brigade Nigerian Army does not and will never carry out its medical outreaches or vaccination for that matter in schools. We, therefore, wish to inform the public that the ongoing rumours about Nigerian Army personnel in military camouflage going round schools in any part of Akwa Ibom State to forcibly immunize school children is false and should, therefore, be disregarded.
“Additionally, members of the public are please requested to call the following GSM numbers 07032032944 and 08034245894 to report any case of imposter(s) that may be seen actually trying to commit such atrocity.’’
However, the state Commissioner of Education, Mr. Paul Udofia, who responded on phone confirmed the withdrawal of children from schools by parents even as he dismissed the rumour as “discouraging and calculated to cause confusion in the state.”