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N/Assembly orders minister to suspend N10bn COVID-19 vaccine production

Not satisfied with explanation from the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Assembly Joint Committee on Health on Wednesday mandated the ministry to suspend further action on the plans to spend the N10 billion released to it by the Ministry of Finance, to fund the production of Covid-19 vaccines.

The committee arrived at the decision following the explanation of the minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire on how the N10 billion would be utilised.

Expressing his dissatisfaction, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, chairman of the Senate committee on health, said the committee had directed that the money should not be spent until the ministry could state clearly, what the money would be used for, adding that the explanation from the minister was not satisfactory.

“This N10 billion is just given to you, with due respect, with what you have given to us, you don’t have a specific detailed plan for it. Our decision, for now, is that you can’t spend the money until you provide us satisfactory answer. Once you provide us the details then we will invite all the necessary persons.”

While defending the approved sum, Ehanire, said the money was part of an agreement between the Federal Government and a foreign partner, May and Baker Plc for the production of bio vaccines.

The minister explained that the ministry was acting on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Federal Government and the foreign partner for the production of the bio vaccines.

Despite his explanations, the senate committee insisted that the N10 billion should not be spent until a detailed plan was made available.

With him at the meeting were the minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora; the permanent secretary of the ministry, and the director-general of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib.

In one of the briefings of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19, the health minister had said “the N10 billion was released for local production of Covid-19 vaccines.

“While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production, in collaboration with recognised institutions. We are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in the country,” Ehanire had said.

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