COVID-19: Group Rally NLC, TUC Against Compulsory Vaccination in Edo

COVID-19: Group Rally NLC, TUC Against Compulsory Vaccination in Edo

…Insists Govt is Infringing on Fundamental Human Rights of the Citizenry …Says Demanding Pass is Similar to Practice in Apartheid South Africa As opposition mounts against the Edo State Government “proof of vaccination” policy, a civil society group, Talakawa Parliament (TP) has called on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC)

…Insists Govt is Infringing on Fundamental Human Rights of the Citizenry

…Says Demanding Pass is Similar to Practice in Apartheid South Africa

As opposition mounts against the Edo State Government “proof of vaccination” policy, a civil society group, Talakawa Parliament (TP) has called on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to prevail on Governor Godwin Obaseki to rescind the order in the interest of peace.

President of the group, Mr Kola Edokpayi, made the call in Benin City while speaking on the issue.

“I want to use this opportunity to call on the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to rise in condemnation of this act,’ he said.

“Let those who want to take the vaccine and those who are saying no to it be.

“Even in America where the coronavirus kills like flies, the people came out to say that the government cannot force them to take the vaccine,”he said.

Edokpayi said the Governor should lead by example by obeying the Port Harcourt High Court order which asked him to maintain the status quo ante on the compulsory vaccination of citizens in the state rather than promoting what is seen to be selective justice.

“The Governor is taking us back to the dark days of the apartheid in South Africa where, as a black South African, you have to move with your pass to the extent that South Africans came out to protest against that introduction of pass.

“This is what the Governor is doing. Why will he be infringing on the fundamental human rights of citizens, taking into perspective that there is a court order restraining the Governor from that forceful vaccination, we expected the Governor to respect the court order.

“He cannot be seen respecting court order that favours him and disobey court order that didn’t favour him,”he said.

Edokpayi said the country has gone beyond the era of autocracy and should allow the people to make informed decisions on their own.

“Let me decide whether to take the vaccine or not and not the Governor forcing it on me.

“This government is fast deteriorating into full-blown totalitarianism of which people like us will certainly resist.

“As a civil society group in Edo State, we are meeting, we will meet today (Wednesday) and we are going to come out with massive protest to protest this forceful vaccination,” he said.

Unvaccinated civil servants and other residents in Edo State were, on Wednesday, stranded at the state secretariat and other government offices in Benin City as the state government commenced its “no vaccination, no access to public places” policy.

The state government had said, beginning from September 15, 2021, civil servants and others who could not present their proof of vaccination would be denied access to government offices, banks, worship and event centres.

Enforcing the Order

The exercise, which began before 7am on Wednesday, saw the state’s Head of COVID-19 Enforcement Team, Mr Yusuf Haruna, manning the main gate of the state Secretariat, located in the GRA. Only those who tendered their vaccination cards were allowed to gain entry. The team also scanned the cards to be sure they were not fake.

Speaking on the exercise, Haruna said he expected little hitches at the take-off of the exercise, assuring that there would be an improvement after a while.

“I am also sure that the people will also want to see if the government is serious about the directive.

“And with what we started today (Wednesday), we are demonstrating that the government is ready to save lives in the state,” he said.

Some of the civil servants, who spoke to journalists, said they were taken by surprise and did not bring their cards with them while others said they had not been vaccinated.

One of them, who craved anonymity, said he was unaware of the take-off day of the order.

He said: “I have not been vaccinated but I will think of what to do. I don’t know why they are forcing us”.

No Access to Public Places

Governor Obaseki said that his government’s directive on no access to public places without being vaccinated still stands inspire of the court order.

The state government had announced plans to make it compulsory for residents to take COVID-19 vaccine and present proof before accessing public places from September 15.

Obaseki also threatened to impose lockdown, if residents failed to follow the directive and comply with COVID-19 protocols in order to halt the spread of the Delta variant of the pandemic.

“The attention of Edo government has been drawn to an order by a High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers directing government to maintain the status quo on the purported compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for citizens.

“To the best of our knowledge, the order is, at best, speculative and preemptive, as the scheduled date for the commencement of enforcement of the directive is the second week of September.

“We want to reiterate that our directive on vaccination stands,” Obaseki said.

He urged those planning social, religious, political or business events after the second week of September to ensure that both themselves and their guests were not only vaccinated but possessed vaccination cards as proof.

Directive Suffered a Setback

The directive making COVID-19 vaccination compulsory in the state had suffered a setback as a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital granted an injunction, restraining the Governor and the agents of Edo State Government, from enforcing the directive.

The restraining order is a fallout of a suit with reference number: FHC/PH/FHR/266/202, dated August 30, 2021, filed by one Charles Osaretin, against the Governor and five others, which sought the order of the court asked all parties to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice, for the enforcement of the applicant’s fundamental human rights and for the leave of court to serve the respondents by publishing the court’s processes in a national daily newspaper circulating in Nigeria.

While arguing the motions in the applicant’s lead counsel, Echezona Etiaba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), urged the court to ask all parties to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice, for the enforcement of the applicant’s fundamental human rights, in addition to granting the leave of court to serve the respondents by publishing the court’s processes in a national daily newspaper circulating in Nigeria.

Justice A. T Mohammed, ordered as prayed and subsequently adjourned the matter till September 10 for the hearing of the substantive motion.

Unvaccinated Persons

The Edo State Government said that unvaccinated persons account for over 98.7 per cent of deaths recorded in the state in the third wave of the pandemic, with the total number of mortalities reaching 54.

The state COVID-19 Incident Manager, Dr Andrew Obi made the disclosure at the daily virtual meeting of the State COVID-19 Taskforce, chaired by Gov. Godwin Obaseki, on Wednesday, in Benin.

“Edo State, in the last 24 hours, recorded one more COVID-19-related death, 63 new confirmed cases, 54 recoveries and 546 active cases that are being managed at various treatment and isolation centres across the state”, he said.

He added that the state recorded the death of another person, who had not taken the jab as the state’s tally of new infections spiral to 63.

Obi, who decried the rise in the number of infections and deaths in the state, urged residents in the state to get vaccinated against the virus to stay alive and healthy, as more unvaccinated persons continued to die from the virus.

Reassuring on the government’s commitment to containing the pandemic and protecting Edo citizens, the Incident Manager said the state had vaccinated over 68,533 persons since the commencement of the second phase vaccination exercise.

So far, he said, 56,482 persons had been vaccinated with Moderna, while 12,051 others took the AstraZeneca vaccine.

According to him, the state has so far in the third wave of the pandemic collected 13,721 samples and recorded 1,098 confirmed cases with 498 recoveries.

Obi urged residents, who were yet to receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, to come out for the second dose in order to get full protection against the virus, while others who had not been vaccinated were encouraged to come out and get the vaccinated.

He added that the state government had intensified the vaccination of citizens across the 18 local government areas, urging those who had not been vaccinated to do so in order to remain healthy and protected against the deadly virus, saying, “the vaccines are safe, free and effective.”

FG Consider Stern Action

As the nation continues to witness high cases of COVID-19 in the third wave, the Federal Government is also considering taking some measures against people who refuse to get vaccinated.

Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this recently at a press briefing in Abuja.

He explained that the Federal Government may “apply the basic rule of law” against such people because they will be endangering the lives of other people.

Shuaib noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is making frantic efforts in making the vaccines more accessible to all Nigerians.

“If some individuals refuse to take the vaccine, hence endangering those who have or those who could not due to medical exemptions, then we have to apply the basic rule of law which stipulates that your human right stops where mine begins.

“So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others. The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health is exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians including federal civil servants and corporate entities.

“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, then we would need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy,” he said.

Shuaib’s comments came two days after the nation recorded 93 deaths from COVID-19 and 362 new cases.

Giving a breakdown of the figures, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said the fresh cases were reported in 15 states and the Federal Capital Territory with Lagos being the nation’s epicentre of the virus.

In a bid to win the fight against the disease, authorities have stepped up efforts to ensure citizens take the COVID-19 vaccine for more protection against the virus.

The Federal Government has asked people to go to the various vaccination centres to take the first jab of the Moderna vaccine, as well as the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

They have also encouraged everyone to continue to adhere to the measures put in place to curb the spread of the disease – even after taking the vaccine – until the nation attains herd immunity.

The NPHCDA has disclosed that so far 2, 897, 201 eligible persons had taken the jab across the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory.

The boss of NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this on Tuesday, in Abuja, at the National Vaccines briefing.

The agency says only 2, 897, 201 million people in Nigeria have received their complete dose of the coronavirus vaccine as at Aug. 30, 2021, a far cry from the federal government’s goal of inoculating 70 percent of its citizens by the end of 2022.

The country, which now has three COVID-19 vaccines that had been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO), has commenced its phase 2 vaccination in 35 states and the FCT, according to Shuaib.

“For clients who have not had any vaccination, the Moderna Vaccine is available and is being administered currently in all designated health facilities in the country, while those who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine are encouraged to visit their designated health facility to get their second dose,” he said.

The NPHCDA boss disclosed that the the UK government had generously donated an additional 592,880 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, which was received on Aug. 26, 2021, through the COVAX Facility.

“The total quantity of vaccines donated by the UK Government stands at 1,292,640 doses. The additional doses would be included in the second dose vaccination exercise currently ongoing for clients, who have already taken the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the first phase.

“I, therefore, use this opportunity to once again call on those who received the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine before July 8, 2021, to go and get their second dose, to be fully protected against all strains of the Corona virus,” he added.

He called on Governors to continue to provide leadership in the mobilization of citizens to prioritize the acceptance of COVID-19 vaccine.

Laud Governor Obaseki

“We are particularly enthused by the example of the Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, as he mobilized churches and religious leaders towards mass acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Already, we are getting requests from Edo state for additional vaccines. This is highly commendable,” he said.

Shuaib stated that Nigeria and the rest of the world needed to end the pandemic, recover from its economic adversities and return to normalcy.

However, getting this would be difficult if we do not face the issues of misinformation and disinformation squarely, he added.

“As a rule of thumb, we endeavor not to join issues with individuals who would rather concoct misinformation that could negatively affect the health of citizens.

“This is because even acknowledging some of these falsehoods elevates and adds fuel to a raging flame that benefits only the perpetrator.

US Supreme Court

“Nevertheless, we are constrained by the volume of specific enquiries about a viral text message which purports that the US Supreme Court has cancelled universal vaccination.

“Let’s set the record straight and once again punch holes in the malicious intentions of anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists: The US Supreme Court has not “overturned universal vaccination” there is no record of such a case, and there is no such thing as “universal vaccination” in the US. So, this is another case of “Fake News”,” he explained.

Shuaib stressed that there was often a lot of uncertainty in crisis situations and this leads people to come together and share information in a collective, sense-making process.

“This process can sometimes get things right, but it can also get things wrong, thereby producing rumours that turn out to be false. As Nigerians, when we hear or read an information, we must always verify the credibility of the source, whether the information is internally consistent, and whether there is supporting evidence.

Disabusing False Claims

“Nigerians are encouraged to always reflect on the veracity of the claims they encounter. People need to understand that disinformation is fundamentally exploitative, it tries to use our religion, our patriotism, and our desire for justice, to outrage us and dupe us into faulty reasoning, he added.

He noted that the country’s success in wild polio virus eradication was not without similar challenges.

“The false claims currently disseminated that COVID-19 vaccines are intended for genetic manipulations were similar to the claims that polio vaccines were intended to kill Muslims.

”But today, thanks to our resilience, solidarity and collective will, we have cause to celebrate our hard-won victory over wild polio virus in Nigeria,” He stressed.

The NPHCDA boss also reiterated that vaccines were reliable and proven tools for prevention and control of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.

“A vaccine works by stimulating the immune system, to induce immune cells and proteins, called antibodies, that confer immunity or protection against a disease.

mRNA Technology

“The mRNA technology used to develop the new coronavirus vaccines has been in development for almost two decades.

“Scientists developed the technology to help respond quickly to pandemics, such as COVID-19. It is therefore ridiculous when the anti-vaccination campaigners claim that COVID-19 alters the human DNA or that people will die in two weeks or two years after vaccination.

“Similar claims that polio vaccines were intended to cause infertility and kill our children, were made in the past but today, many of the children who received polio vaccine have grown to adulthood, become parents and are fulfilling their various dreams.

“No child in the country died of polio vaccination. It is, therefore, critically important for us all to always seek correct and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines from reliable sources, so that we can be rightly guided to dispel fake news and misinformation from individuals or groups driven by mischief,” he added.

Optimize Logistics

He stated that the agency would continue to work closely with all states, to optimize logistics for the full take-off of the phase 2 vaccination exercise, in order to ensure maximum utilization of available vaccines in Nigeria.

“Let me again remind us that the ‘whole of family approach’ in this phase of vaccination exercise gives all children aged 0 to 12 months the opportunity to receive childhood vaccination and get screened for malnutrition while adults aged 40 years and above can check their blood pressure and know their diabetes risk status, among others,” he said.

Shuaib disclosed that the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) and the Federal Ministry of Health were exploring ways of making vaccines more readily available to all Nigerians, including Federal Civil Servants and Corporate entities.

“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, then we would need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exists around vaccine hesitancy.

“If some individuals refuse to take the vaccine, hence endangering those who have or those who could not due to medical exemptions, then we have to apply the basic rule of law which stipulates that your human right stops where mine begins.

”So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others,” he said.

He assured Nigerians that the Federal Government was very alert to the safety and efficacy of the various vaccines used in the country and that was why it was not compromising on any component of the vaccine logistics at Federal and state levels.

Shuaib appealed to all health workers to remain steadfast in discharging their professional responsibility to Nigerians, saying that the Federal government was working hard and supporting the states in ensuring that Nigerians were protected against COVID-19

“This is a collective fight in which we all have a responsibility as Nigerians to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community,” he added.

He reminded all Nigerians that evidence of vaccination against COVID-19 was now mandatory for all pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem, urging adherents of both religions, who are planning to perform pilgrimage next year or in the future, to get vaccinated now to avoid any delays.

Vaccines Are Available

“This is also to bring to our attention that as the COVID-19 vaccines become available worldwide, some countries have made vaccination a requirement to gain access to their country.

“The COVID-19 vaccines are available in all states across the country. We urge all eligible Nigerians to take advantage of its availability and get vaccinated.

“As you get vaccinated, please remember to continue to wear your face masks, observe hand hygiene, observe physical distancing until we have achieved herd immunity.

”Also remember to convince your loved ones, friends and colleagues that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective,” the NPHCDA boss advised.

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