Former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, said yesterday that the N400 billion being demanded by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for approval by the National Assembly to purchase vaccines to tackle the virus was too humongous, describing it as a misplaced priority.
He said such huge amount of money should rather be used to tackle banditry, kidnapping, and other forms of insecurity in the country.
Bafarawa, who stated this in an interview with journalists on the parlous state of security in the country and COVID-19, said: “Why can’t we divert this money for security? I’m saying this because the insecurity is Nigeria’s Coronavirus. We don’t have much COVID -19 in Nigeria.
“It is my advice though that the Federal Government should pay even more attention to the issue of insecurity in the country and the North in particular, instead of emphasizing and spending huge sum of money on coronavirus.’’
He challenged the PTF to show transparency and give a breakdown to Nigerians how N3.5 billion was blown and what they did with it.
“Like any other country across the globe, Nigeria, sometime in March 2020, quickly put in place a committee known as Presidential Task Force (on COVID – 19) headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
“From then on the PTF has been doing what it is supposed to be doing based on the terms of reference the government has mandated it to work on.
“The committee is supposed to order for basic health measures bordering on hygiene, washing of hands, wearing of face masks, social distancing, closure of schools including tertiary institutions, airports and host of other measures.
“Indeed the task force still deals mainly with such measures. But come to think of it! Within the period under review, which is about nine months period now, not even up to one year, a whopping sum of N3.5 billion is said to have been spent. This is without funding for research or other related efforts on drugs purchase or drug research findings for their manufacture.
“We need to know; Nigerians need to know how this N3.5 billion was spent not just to hear figures. We need to have a breakdown, they should be transparent and tell the public what they have done.
“Look at the amount they are proposing to buy the drugs, almost 60 per cent of Nigerians don’t believe in this Coronavirus and for the PTF to recommend N400 billion, you have to sensitize the people on the vaccine.”
“These vaccines have a lifetime by the nature of our weather, maybe after some time, they will be of no use. Now, these vaccines have been meant for Europe. So, how do you expect to spend N400 billion to bring the drugs when people are not even convinced to take the drugs?
“Supposing people refuse to take the vaccines, the N400 billion becomes a waste. So, we have to sensitize people to agree that this Coronavirus is real and the vaccines are real; let them be convinced. Remember what happened with the polio vaccine.
“It is not a question of seeking N400 billion approval from the National Assembly just to bring the drugs and then it is of no use. We have to make sure that these vaccines are examined by professionals under the PTF like NAFDAC has said.
“Now we are talking about N400 billion and just about 2000 people have died last year. Come to think of how many lives were killed within a year, over 300,000 people died.
“It is recently projected that more than N400 billion is needed by the PTF to acquire the newly discovered COVID – 19 vaccines, despite the said N3.5 billion that was spent on only measures to mitigate the spread of the virus in the country.
“Should this trend be allowed to continue, we would have a situation where the lives and properties of Nigerians are being made less valuable which is even more disturbing. We should bear it in mind that so far, only approximately about 2,000 people are said to have died from 2019 to date since the said virus was said to be here in Nigeria,’’ the former governor said.