By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The federal government is working on a supplementary budget for the procurement of COVID-19 Vaccines that will be presented to the National Assembly soon, THISDAY’S investigations have revealed.
Already, the National Assembly has set April deadline for the consideration and approval of the budget when submitted by the executive.
Speaking against the background of concerns by Nigerians over the procurement plans put in place by the government for the purchase of vaccines to curb the impact of the dreaded virus, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, said the issue of the supplementary budget has become apparent since enough funds were not provided in the 2021 budget for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
Utazi in a response to an enquiry by THISDAY yesterday said he is hopeful that before Easter, the bill would be in the National Assembly for legislative processes and passage into law.
Utazi further stated that: “Because of the inadequate provision in the 2021 Appropriation Act for vaccines procurement, it became apparent and needful that there must be a Supplementary Appropriation Bill by the Executive to cover the initial shortfall in the 2021 Appropriation Act.
“As we speak, the preparation of the Supplementary Bill is in the works. I hope that before Easter, the bill will be in the National Assembly for legislative processes and passage into law.”
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, also confirmed that the federal government is presently preparing a supplementary budget for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
Shuaib, who spoke to THISDAY yesterday, said there was no money provided in the 2021 appropriation bill signed into law by the president last December.
He said: “The plan of the federal government is to look at all available sources of funding for COVID-19 vaccine as it is not captured in 2021 appropriation for procurement of vaccines. So the Ministry of Health is in consultations with the National Assembly on the possibility a supplementary budget to take care of COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.
When asked if the delay in appropriating money for the vaccines will not affect the time frame for its procurement and implementation, Shuaib said that the first of 16 million doses of COVAX procured vaccines are free and is expected to arrive any time from now.
According to the executive director, the federal government is also looking at other sources of funding, especially from World Bank facility that can take care of matters such as manpower training, logistics and personnel cost.
Shuaib also said that the issue of the breakdown of the budget items will be sorted in the days ahead as the supplementary budget takes shape.
Official Explains N400bn Estimates
THISDAY also gathered that the N400 billion budget estimates are being projected to cover the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines required for the vaccination of 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population.
An official of the Federal Ministry of Health, who spoke to THISDAY yesterday, said that the projected amount is for a two budget circle – 2021 to 2022.
According to the source, who said he was not authorized to speak to the media on the subject matter, there are several components that summed up the N400 billion aside from the cost of COVID-19 vaccine.
He said: “The N400 billion is actually for a 2-year budget circle not for 2021 alone.
It is meant to cover vaccination of 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population.”
According to him, it is not possible to procure vaccines to cover 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population which is 140 million and administer them in just one year.
The source described the N400 billion as a mere expenditure projection for the next two years, which may be higher or lower depending on the various cost factors that are determined by market forces.
The ministry official, who said that it took the government a lot of effort and energy to arrive at the N400 billion estimates, noted it contains details of what it will take to deliver vaccines to the targeted population.
According to him, some of the details have to do with the cost of providing cold chains for storage of vaccines in various locations, diesel for powering the storage facilities as well as solar power alternative that can be deployed to rural areas.
“N400 billion is not just for the procurement of COVID-19 Vaccine. It covers all that is involved in procurement, delivery, storage, administration, distribution, personnel cost and everything needed to deliver the doses of the vaccine to Nigerians.
“For instance, when you procure the vaccines, you will need to store it in cold freezers across the 36 states of the country including delivery to all the 774 local government areas.
“There is also the cost profile for personnel, administration and logistics till the vaccine is administered to the beneficiary. All these components were factored into the budget for the COVID-19 Vaccine.
When asked about the current price of each vaccine dose, the official said it varies from from $3 to $20.
Also, the official was asked to confirm whether the N400 billion will come through supplementary appropriation and when he said no information to that effect.
“Budget for the vaccines is not really what Nigerians should worry about but whether the federal government has made good plans to procure these vaccines. In 2020, when COVID-19 broke out as global pandemic, there was no budget for addressing it but the federal government later found money to tackle it. The first $1 billion released for the emergency operations was not in the budget. Even the supplementary budget came several months later.
He said that government rose up to the challenge and started tackling the pandemic while pursuing the processes for supplementary budget.
According to him, the federal government has covered all loose ends as far as the issue of procurement of COVID-19 Vaccine is concerned.
“This is the time that Nigerians should trust and have confidence in the government.
Although some persons in government may not be straight forward, but this government is sincere to the people. The federal government has a responsibility to the citizens and the people should have confidence in the capacity of the government to deliver on its programmes,” he said.