he private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) yesterday shed more light on its squabble with the BUA Group, saying the company cannot lay claims to the acquisition of vaccines for Nigeria as presently no private organisation is authorised to do so globally.
CACOVID said although the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is yet to approve any of the brands of vaccines for the country, there are steps to be followed in procuring the vaccines.
The Administrator, CACOVID, and Managing Director of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, Ms. Zouera Youssofou, spoke during an interview on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, against the backdrop of Monday dispute between the BUA Group and CACOVID over claims by the former that it had purchased one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for Nigeria.
BUA, in a statement, had said that it had paid for one million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for Nigeria through the Afreximbank Vaccine programme in partnership with CACOVID.
The company, which said the vaccines would be distributed at no cost to Nigerians, added that the one million doses would be delivered next week. It pledged to buy an additional five million.
However, CACOVID in a statement Monday night, disowned BUA’s claim, saying the Chairman/Founder of the group, Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, must have been misquoted.
“CACOVID leadership agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria, these one million doses from Afreximbank worth $3.45 million, being the very first tranche. CACOVID will purchase vaccines through other credible and subsidised 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,” it had said.
In a riposte, BUA disputed CACOVID’s claim, saying that it offered to pay for the vaccine when no other member of the coalition was forthcoming with a donation.
It narrated: “After extensive deliberations, there was no agreement reached and despite members being offered the opportunity to donate funds towards procuring the doses, none offered. BUA then took it upon itself to offer to pay for the one million doses at the agreed rate of $3.45 per dose totalling $3,450,000,000.00 which translates to N1.31 billion.
“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.”
But, speaking on ARISE NEWS Channel, Youssofou explained that CACOVID as a group always agrees on what to purchase, how to purchase it and what modalities the purchases would be.
This, she said, was how the group had been working since its creation in March 2020.
“The purchasing of the vaccine is similar to the purchasing of testing supplies.
That means we will do this through valid and subsidised means,” she added.
According to her, presently, there are three mechanisms that the federal government is participating in the purchase of the vaccines.
She listed them to include COVAX, the African Union Vaccine Acquisition Taskforce, which is funded by Afreximbank and the World Bank, which is also funding some of the vaccines.
She explained that Nigeria, being a member of all the aforementioned organisations, CACOVID’s role is to support the government in procuring what is needed to help the citizens.
She stated: “So, there are several steps to procuring vaccines. The government is the only one that can buy the vaccines, so, as a private-sector group or individual companies, we can’t buy vaccines ourselves.
“You cannot call AstraZeneca, Pfizer, or Moderna and order vaccines from them. The second thing is that the distribution of the vaccine has to be done by the National Primary Development Healthcare Agency (NPDHA), which is the only agency in the country mandated to manage the vaccine.
“So, this is not a matter of sending money to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). That is one step. But the real step is how do we get the vaccine into Nigeria and how do we distribute them to the people?
“Another thing which is being overlooked is that AstraZeneca or any vaccine hasn’t been approved by NAFDAC, which is the regulatory agency.”
According to her, without the approval of NAFDAC, no vaccine can be imported, be distributed or given to Nigerians.
Providing more insight into what transpired, she said she was on the conference call with the Afreximbank President, Prof. Benedict Oramah, on February 7, alongside Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Access Bank Managing Director, Mr. Herbert Wigwe and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele.
She said: “In that call, Oramah explained to us, their model and how the vaccine task force was working with the AU and that allocation of 14 million doses had been made for Nigeria.
“He also told us that there was an extra one million doses that we could get if we confirm that we wanted it by the next day, which was February 8th.
“So, CACOVID leaders agreed that it was a good thing and we agreed to take that to our larger meeting on Monday. What is really important to note is that after that call, Afreximbank already secured those doses for Nigeria because they had the confirmation from Emefiele, Wigwe and Dangote.
“So, nobody is disputing a transfer into the CBN’s account, nobody is saying that didn’t happen. The challenge is the claim that one company has brought the vaccine into Nigeria, which is not factual.”
According to her, the clarification became necessary, so that Nigerians would not be expecting the vaccines by next week.
“We do not have an approval from NAFDAC yet; nobody is playing politics with anything, the vaccines are going to be free, just as everything that CACOVID had done had been free.
“But the idea that we would have the vaccines in Nigeria next week is not realistic. So, there are many questions beyond sending money to the CBN,” she added.
She stated that the private sector coalition has always had the idea of collegiality and has different members who contributed different amounts of money.
“The account at the CBN has everybody’s contribution and that is from where the CBN would transfer to whoever we are making purchases from. If you look at all the things we did before, you will never have had an individual company saying it bought this or that,” she said.