By Chioma Iruke
On November 22, 2021, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari revealed his intentions to obtain a fresh loan of $30million from the World Bank for the purpose of building a vaccine plant in the country.
According to the President, the vaccine plant will be built in collaboration with indigenous drug maker, May & Baker Nigeria Plc, and would commence later in the year.
The President’s move is coming amidst concerns over several loans taken by his administration, with the country’s external debt standing at N13.711 trillion, or 38.66%. as at June 2021.
A breakdown of external debt by the Debt Management Office (DMO) revealed that multilateral (World Bank Group and African Development Bank Group) own the majority of the debt, accounting for 54.88%, while commercial debt (Eurobonds and Diaspora bonds) came in second with 31.88%, followed by bilateral debt (China, France, Japan, India, and Germany) with 12.70%. Promissory Notes account for 0.54% of the total.
The viability of the President’s wish to build a vaccine plant is questionable, as Nigeria’s current human vaccine building capacity is almost non-existent. As at January this year, the only laboratory for human vaccine production was at Yaba, Lagos, and has not been functional for many years now.
The last time any human vaccine was produced at the Federal Vaccine Production Laboratory was in 1991. Despite recent attempts to resuscitate that facility by the immediate past Minister of Health, all efforts did not yield the desired results.
Recall, in January, the Nigerian Government approved a total of N10 billion (US$26 million) to support the production of local vaccines. The Minister of Health made this known in a statement where he said: “The ministry of finance has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production. While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production in collaboration with recognized institutions. We are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in-country and have had discussions with a producer.”
Despite no feed back on the progress of locally made vaccines, the Nigerian Government seeks not only to spend more money on vaccine productions, but also to add to her debt profile for a course that the country can internally finance.
According to a Passengers Traffic Statistics Report made available by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria recorded a total of 6,420,820 passengers who traveled through domestic and international airports in Nigeria between January and June this year, representing a 50.5 percent post Covid-19 increase in flights as compared to 4,267, 409 passengers recorded same period in 2020.
According to the reports, the figure comprised 5,513,098 domestic passengers and 907,722 international travelers.
Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos processed the highest number of international travelers with 670,938 passengers, followed by Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja with 225,985 in the first half of 2021.
In October 2021, the Chairman Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, issued a revised international travel protocol into Nigeria.
Under the new arrangement, “Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated in-bound passengers’ would be required to observe a mandatory 7-day self-isolation in addition to a COVID-19 PCR test on days 2 and 7 after arrival.
“Fully vaccinated in-bound passengers will not be required to observe the mandatory 7-day self-isolation but will be required to do a COVID-19 PCR test on day 2 of arrival.
“Persons arriving on Business trip or on official duty staying less than seven days in Nigeria must be fully vaccinated, produce negative COVID-19 PCR result 72 hours before boarding; and conduct a PCR test on day 2 of their arrival.”
Findings by the Heritage Times revealed that a PCR Test in Nigeria ranges between N36,000 to N50,400, depending on the state and the laboratory.
In Abuja, for example, labs charge an upward of 36,000 naira ($88 at the official exchange rate) for a COVID-19 test. In Lagos, tests are about 50,400 naira ($123). The monthly minimum wage in Nigeria is only 30,000 naira ($73).
Further findings by The Heritage Times using a N420 to $1 exchange rate, showed how much the Nigerian Government has made from COVID-19 tests so far.
In Abuja, 225,985 passengers within the first half of 2021, using the N36,000 ($88) as a charge rate multiplied by the total amount of passengers in (225,985) with the COVID-19 charge rate, gives a total of N8,135,460,000 ($19,886,680).
In Lagos on the other hand, with a figure of 670,938 passengers using the N36,000 ($88) as a charge rate multiplied by the total amount of passengers (670,938) with the COVID-19 charge rate, gives a total of N24,153,768,000 ($59,042,544).
In total, Nigeria made a total of N32,289,228,000 ($78,929,224) from COVID PCR tests within the first half of 2021.