Federal government workers who were unable to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or present a negative PCR result, were prevented from gaining access to their offices in Abuja yesterday.
However, some early birds who came to work before 9am yesterday before the enforcement team arrived gained access to their offices.
Many civil servants were, however, seen stranded outside the premises of their offices, like the Radio House which houses workers in agencies under the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
The Nigerian government had earlier directed civil servants from Grade Level 12 and below to resume work from Wednesday, December 1, 2021.
The workers were also directed to get vaccinated before resumption.
The directive, which is contained in a circular signed by the head of service of the federation (HOS), Folasade Yemi-Esan, noted that beginning December 1, all federal government workers are requested “to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result done within 72 hours.”
But despite the fact that the federal government had given civil servants enough time to get vaccinated, a lot of them waited till the deadline before going for vaccination.
This attitude left many vaccination centres in the FCT crowded with people turning out for vaccination on November 30.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed three cases of the Omicron variant, also known as the B.1.1.529 lineage, in Nigeria.
NCDC, in a statement signed by its director-general, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, on Wednesday, said the three cases of Omicron variant were identified among travelers from South Africa who arrived in Nigeria last week.
He said the cases, though asymptomatic, had been linked to clinical care while other response activities which include contact tracing had commenced.
The NCDC DG also said arrangements had been made to notify their countries of origin to commence in-country response.
Adetifa noted that preliminary findings in countries where the variant was earlier detected showed insufficient evidence to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from other variants.
He, however, said that the variant may be more transmissible, even though there is still a lot to learn about the variant.
“In line with the routine travel test required of all international travellers and genomic sequencing at NCDC through its National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Abuja, confirmed Nigeria’s first case of the Omicron variant, also known as the B.1.1.529 lineage.
“Genomic sequencing of positive cases from routine day two test for all travellers to Nigeria identified three cases of Omicron variant among travellers from South Africa who arrived in Nigeria in the last week,” he said.
Speaking further, the DG noted that since the emergence of the Omicron variant in some parts of the world, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) through NCDC, with the guidance of the World Health Organisation(WHO), had intensified public health response measures to COVID-19 in Nigeria based on the assessment of the risk of spread of the virus.
This, he said, includes the review of the national travel protocols by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19(PSC-COVID-19) which announced that travellers to Nigeria now must present a negative COVID-19 test result within 48 hours before boarding.
He appealed to Nigerians to adhere strictly to these travel protocols to prevent a fourth wave of COVID-19 in the country as it combats the pandemic and these emerging variants including the Delta variant.
Following the deadline given to government workers to get vaccinated against the dreaded COVID-19 which ended yesterday, December 1, 2021, workers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have appealed to the federal government to extend the deadline for the compulsory vaccination of civil servants.
The workers said the extension was necessary to enable all civil servants to take the jab and avoid a stampede at the vaccination centres.
Some of the vacation centres visited by our correspondent at about 4:30pm, which include the International Conference Centre, ICC, Asokoro District Hospital, Gudu isolation centre, and National Hospital revealed a large crowd waiting to be vaccinated.
A civil servant working in the Ministry of Education, Mrs. Eunice Okafor, expressed worry over the deadline, appealing to the government to reconsider it to enable workers comply.
“We are not denying the fact that in civil service the rule of engagement and civil service rule must be respected. For most of us here. we are ready to be vaccinated but the crowd here is large and we may not know the day our turn will be. We need more time because as government workers most times we are occupied by day-to-day activities in our offices.
“Yes, it is true that we must vaccinate because of the combative nature of the virus. At the same time, they should give us time because of the number of people involved, so they should extend the deadline. That is our appeal to the government, a strong appeal.
“We would appeal with a letter. The letter will get to them latest tomorrow (today) morning. We want them to extend it till next year,” she said.
Meanwhile, security operatives have started barring civil servants and visitors who fail to show their vaccination cards from government buildings in Abuja.
At the main gate leading to the Federal Ministry of Education, our correspondent observed that people who failed to provide their cards were turned back while most offices had inscriptions such as “no vaccination card, no entry” on their doors.
The federal government, through the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, had on 13th October, 2021 given December 1 as deadline for all civil servants to present their vaccination cards.
However, by yesterday, December 1, there was no enforcement at some ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government (MDAs), including the Federal Ministry of Health.
A source at the ministry told our correspondent that there was no enforcement at the ministry as nobody was asked to present COVID-19 card before entering the office, including himself.
He said, “Nothing like checking today, maybe they will start tomorrow. I only witnessed that at Radio House when I went there today.”
But at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, there was enforcement as staff members were asked to present their vaccination cards before entering the office.
However, nobody was locked out, meaning everybody that came to work had been vaccinated. This could also be because some staff of the Agency were yet to resume work fully since the COVID-19 lockdown.
The ministry of interior is to begin the enforcement of operation show evidence of COVID-19 vaccination on Thursday.
LEADERSHIP gathered that following the December 1 deadline for all federal workers to be vaccinated, the ministry had given all staff yet to be vaccinated the end of December 1 to get vaccinated or be barred from accessing their offices.
When our reporter visited the ministry yesterday, most of the departments in the ministry looked deserted, as many workers were not seen on their duty posts.
A worker of the ministry, who did not mention his name, told LEADERSHIP that many workers had taken the one-day grace to visit the nearest vaccination centres to get vaccinated.
He said a circular has been sent informing all those who have no evidence of vaccination to stay away from the ministry, starting from tomorrow (Thursday) morning.
A security operative at the entrance of the ministry said they had been instructed not to allow anyone without evidence of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the offices from tomorrow morning.
“Based on directive, the ‘operation show your evidence of vaccination against COVID-19’ will commence from tomorrow (Thursday).
Any staff member that fails to provide evidence that he/she has been vaccinated will not be allowed into the offices.”
At the building of the Federal Ministry of Education entrance, security men blocked the main entrance of the building in the early hours of Wednesday, demanding vaccination cards or evidence of test from workers before they were allowed into the offices.
However, when our reporter revisited the area at about 2:12 pm, there were less restrictions as both staff and visitors could be seen coming in and out of the ministry without any checks.
It was further observed that a vaccination stand was set up under a canopy at the back of the Eagle Square where some of the unvaccinated civil servants queued up to receive vaccination.
As of the time of filing this report, some people expressed unhappiness at the compulsion to take the vaccines.
A worker at the ministry who does not want his name mentioned said, “Vaccination should be ‘optional but not mandatory in any case. Forcing people to be vaccinated is not the right way to go.”
A visit to Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) showed a massive compliance as it was gathered that almost all the staff of the Commission had taken the vaccine even before the December 1 deadline.
Although, there were no checks on staff for vaccination cards at the entrance of the office, the spokesperson of the Commission, David Apeh, said it was because a majority of the workers had taken their doses, having contracted NCDC few weeks earlier to administer the vaccine to staff at the commission.
He said, “NCDC came recently before the December deadline and they gave a directive that every staff be vaccinated.
“They were here, they did it in the conference room of the Commission and virtually all the staff have received COVID-19 vaccination, but we didn’t tell them to bring their cards.
“Every day, NCDC were coming consecutively for weeks. We brought them and stationed them here; as you are coming to the office you get vaccinated, even those that were on leave had to come back. So here we don’t have the fear except for the new variant, Omicron,” he added.
Other education institutions visited expressed readiness to ensure that all their staff members take the vaccines.
As the December 1 deadline for vaccine mandate elapsed, some ministries have failed to enforce the Presidential Steering Committee instructions on unvaccinated persons.
At the ministry of transportation and aviation, it was business as usual as civil servants accessed the offices without any hindrances.
According to one worker identified as Ogbu Chris, he was not asked about any vaccine when he got to the office.
Also, another employee, Sule Ahmed, said the vaccine cannot be forced on him and, thankfully, no one tried to stop him when he got to the office.
At the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, the director of press and public relations, Boade Aknola said that the ministry was in compliance with the full implementation of the COVID-19 guidelines.
According to her, the minister of works and housing Babatunde Raji Fashola had made sure everybody working in the ministry had taken their COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to wearing their facemask.
“As you can see, everybody is wearing his or her face mask because we all know that prevention is better than cure.
Like me, I had taken my COVID-19 vaccine since, before it even become compulsory. In fact, there is no ministry that has taken Covid-19 seriously like our own ministry,” she said.
Vaccine Inequality Will Affect Progress In Fight Against Pandemic – FG
In a related development, Nigeria has warned that lack of vaccination by developing countries will provide a fertile ground for the Covid-19 virus to mutate, thus threatening the progress already recorded even in the developed countries.
The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, issued the warning in Madrid, Spain, yesterday at the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
The minister was speaking against the background of the latest mutation (Omicron) of the Covid-19 virus, which has triggered a wave of travel bans on some countries in Africa.
He said access to vaccines should be based on the principles grounded in the right of every human to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, political belief, economic or any other social condition.
Alhaji Mohammed said many developed countries had used the advantage of their enormous resources or relationship to sign agreements with manufacturers to supply their countries with vaccines ahead of making them available for use by other countries.
”Even before the clinical trials were completed, millions of doses of the most promising vaccines were bought by Britain, US, Japan and the European bloc countries. Some of these countries bought doses five times the size of their population.
“There are fears that these unilateral deals will deprive the poorest countries of access to these life-saving commodities,” he said.
The minister said while developed countries have to increase their health care spending by less than 1% to cover for the additional cost of vaccines, poor countries have to do that by about 60%.
He said booster doses will make COVID-19 vaccination a recurring expense, the cost of which will be unaffordable for many developing and poor nations.
Mohammed said a slow and delayed vaccination rollout in low and middle-income countries had left many of them vulnerable to COVID-19 variants, new surges of infection and slower rate of recovery.
He said whereas most developed countries have already vaccinated 60 per cent and above of their population, most developing countries are currently below 5 per cent.
“My country, Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, has just vaccinated only about 3 per cent of our population,” the minister said.