The Federal Government’s plan to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for civil servants and sanction those who refuse to take it is strange, alien and lacks any legal backing. Nigerians cannot be forced to take a vaccine that is characterized by series of conspiracy theories.
Yes, the government has the right in every circumstance to protect its citizens from danger but compelling them with threats is completely wrong. If the government by all means wants compulsory vaccination, then it must amend existing laws, as currently there is no known legislation that makes it mandatory for Nigerians to be vaccinated.
On the other hand, the government should raise the level of awareness by embarking on massive sensitization campaigns to assure the people that the vaccines are safe and can save them from the virus. With this, the level of vaccine hesitancy will be drastically reduced.
In doing so, the government needs to engage religious and traditional leaders to lead the campaign. Most Nigerians believe so much in their pastors, imams, chiefs, and other such leaders of thought. So, its easier to convince them using the church and mosque. A particular very prominent pastor with millions of followers in Nigeria and beyond has strongly warned his congregation not to take the vaccine. He has repeatedly said it is aimed at bringing people under “one demonic anti-christ regime”. Imagine the government convincing him with facts on the safety of the vaccine, that will be a major milestone for the vaccine to be embaraced and not the sinister attempt to coax the people against their will.
Until that is done, the huge doubts about the efficacy of the vaccine will persist and that is understandable. For some people, they still believe Covid-19 is a hoax and their argument is tempting to accept. For instance, there are other killer diseases that till date no vaccine has been produced to cure its rampaging effect. Cancer is one of them. So, the rush to produce and want people to take the Covid-19 vaccine is suspicious.
More so, there has been disturbing reports that even those who took the first and second jab of the vaccine, still died from Covid-19. A very influential former senator from the north was mentioned as an example. He died recently from Covid-19 complications.
Very senior lawyers in the country have highlighted the illegality of the planned decision to make the vaccine compulsory. Constitutionally, they have stated that the plan is strictly against the fundamental human rights of Nigerians, contending that in medical practice, a vaccine or drug cannot be administered on a person without his or her consent.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) have also faulted the move by the federal government on the planned compulsory vaccination. While the NMA said the people had the right to reject vaccines the same way they could reject medical treatment, JOHESU on its part stated that the move to make vaccination compulsory was far from common sense.
But beyond the planned move, it is even laughable that the government is thinking of instituting an action like that when it is well known that the number of vaccines to inoculate eligible citizens is grossly inadquate at the moment. Therefore, it is premature to mull such an idea.
We also think that the federal government should wait for the outcome of the case against Edo State Government who had attempted to take similar action. The state governor, Godwin Obaseki, had told the people of the state that the government would begin to sanction those who fail to take the vaccine by the first week of September.
Not satisfied with the decision, the people staged a peacful protest against the government and went further to secure a court order barring the government from going ahead with its decision.
Justice Adamu Turaki-Mohammed of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State granted an ex parte order restraining Obaseki and the Edo State Government from enforcing the directive mandating all residents of the state to compulsorily get vaccinated for COVID-19.
In the light of this, we urge the federal government not to be in a hurry but to await the outcome of the Edo case before proceeding with any action.