By Eric Elezuo
A melodrama played out Monday evening February 8 between the BUA Group and the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), a private sector organisation, which has been in partnership with the Federal Government in tackling the dreaded Coronavirus since it gained grounds earlier in 2020, raising the question who is playing politics with the lives of Nigerians.
BUA Group had earlier notified the public of a gigantic step it took to procure the much needed COVID-19 vaccines, which had in the recent past been a major issue of concern for the government and people of Nigeria. It said in the statement that it has purchased one million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for Nigeria, through the AfreximBank vaccine programme in partnership with CACOVID.
The vaccines, according to BUA, which should be delivered by next week, will be the first delivery of vaccines to Nigeria since the COVID-19 vaccines became available. The company maintained that vaccines will be distributed to Nigerians at no cost.
In his appreciation for the token opportunity given to serve his country, Founder of BUA, Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, thanked the President of the AfreximBank, Benedict Oramah, for making the purchase possible and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, for coordinating the process through CACOVID.
Mr Rabiu noted:
“BUA decided to secure these one million vaccines by paying the full amount for the vaccines today because these vaccines became available only last week through AFREXIM. We expect the vaccines to be delivered within the next 14 days and hope priority will be given to our frontline workers who have committed their lives to managing the pandemic.
“In addition to this, BUA is committing to purchase 5 million doses for Nigeria as soon as they become available through this same arrangement.”
However, in a swift reaction, CACOVID responded, denying that BUA Group neither paid nor procured any vaccines as claimed.
The group disowned the statement by the BUA group, which stated that the company plans to purchase one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for Nigeria.
In its counter statement however, CACOVID denied BUA’s contribution to securing the doses, stating that purchase of the vaccine cannot be done by individuals or companies, but only through the Federal Government.
“CACOVID is dismayed to learn of reports on social media today, alleging that BUA is singlehandedly purchasing 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for Nigeria. Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu must have been misquoted because these claims are not factual CACOVID operates on a collegiate fund contribution model. There is no agreement between bua, cacovid AND Afreximbank,” CACOVID noted.
The statement concluded saying:
“CACOVID would like the Nigerian public to understand that vaccine purchase is possible through the Federal Government of Nigeria, and that no individual or company can purchase vaccines from any legitimate and recognised manufacturer.”
Shortly afterwards, BUA came out with a rejoinder, which it titled DON’T PLAY POLITICS WITH NIGERIAN LIVES, where it expressed shock at the “reports allegedly attributed to CACOVID disowning its earlier payment through CACOVID for 1 million AstraZeneca doses for Nigeria via the AFREXIM vaccine platform”.
The rejoinder narrated in details how the BUA Group stepped out to fill a vacuum, wondering why a reputable group like CACOVID would deny the gesture.
It added: “After extensive deliberations, there was no agreement reached 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 1 million doses at the agreed rate of US$3.45 per dose totalling US$3,450,000,000.00 which translates to 1.311 billion Naira
“The chairman of BUA also requested through the CBN governor that the Naira equivalent be paid to the relevant account with CBN, and the CBN forward the dollar payment to Afrexim on CACOVID 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. However, with this development by the CACOVID operations committee, we now have just to believe that some members of CACOVID were not that BUA took this initiative in the interest of Nigeria and to ensure that the deadline was met to receive the 1 million doses of the vaccine next week.”
Expressing that its action was in good faith, as it has done in the past since the battle to flatten the COVID-19 curve took off in Nigeria, BUA accused a ‘prominent member of CACOVID of not being happy that it took such gigantic initiative and step ‘to pay for the vaccines’ .
The group dismissed CACOVID’s release as ‘petty and unbecoming of seemingly corporate citizens because it is tantamount to playing politics with the lives of Nigerians’.
The group reiterated its desire to ‘stand ready to keep supporting’, adding that despite the campaign against it, ‘will let the money paid remain in the CACOVID Account with the CBN pending when they are ready to utilise the funds for Nigerians to access the vaccines’
In BUA’s submission, ‘This is no time to play politics. It is time for us to come together to help Nigerians, and it does not matter who is helping or paying’.
See a copy of Bua’s statement and evidence of payment: