The Federal Government, on Tuesday, hinted that it might sanction anybody who refused to take COVID-19 vaccines after they had been made available to all Nigerians.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, gave the hint of possible sanctions at a press briefing in Abuja.
This was as a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Tuesday, barred the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, from enforcing compulsory COVID-19 vaccination in the state.
The Nigerian Medical Association and health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union faulted the move.
While the NMA said the people had the right to reject vaccines the same way they could reject medical treatment, JOHESU stated that the move to make vaccination compulsory was senseless.
Obaseki had last week said any resident of the state, who refused to take the vaccine, would be barred from public places and large gatherings.
Also on Monday, the Ondo State Government said it would bar those without a proof of vaccination from churches, mosques and other public places.
Shuaib hinted that the Federal Government might toe the line of the two state governments.
He said the Federal Government might “apply the basic rule of law” against such people, because they would be endangering the lives of others.
He stated, “The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health are exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians, including federal civil servants and corporate entities.
“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, then we will need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy.
“If some individuals refuse to take the vaccine, hence endangering those who have or those who could not due to medical exemptions, then we have to apply the basic rule of law, which stipulates that your human right stops where mine begins.
“So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others.”
JOHESU said the policy to compel all eligible citizens to get vaccinated did not make sense.
The spokesman for JOHESU, Mr Olumide Akintayo, in an interview with one of our correspondents, faulted state governments, which made COVID-19 vaccination compulsory.
He said the policy would only be sensible if there were enough vaccines to inoculate eligible citizens.
Akintayo stated, “If you are thinking of it in terms of responsibility, it makes sense; but practically, we all know it is an impossible task. If all the doses that have been sent to Nigeria since this outbreak is less than 10 million, how do you enforce that kind of policy in a country of over 200 million people?
“You don’t just come up with policies that are not backed by common sense; you don’t just say things because you want to talk. It would have made some sense if the vaccines are available for everyone.”
The General Secretary of the NMA, Philips Ekpe, said citizens could not be forced to be vaccinated against COVID-19 the same way they had the right to reject medical treatment.
Rather than being forced, he said Nigerians should be made to understand the need to be vaccinated.
According to him, although they cannot be forced, citizens who refuse vaccination should stay in their houses so that they don’t endanger others.
He said, “The Federal Government needs to make people understand the reason why they need to be vaccinated. They have the right to say no. You cannot force people. People have the right to say no to medical treatment.
“But you should let them understand the dangers of not getting vaccinated. For example, if you want to travel out of the country, if you are not vaccinated, you will not be let in. The reason is because the other country you are going to won’t want to endanger the lives of its citizens.
“Let them understand the importance, but then if they refuse, they should stay in their houses and not go out and endanger others.”
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, on Tuesday, granted an ex parte order restraining Obaseki and the Edo State Government from enforcing the directive mandating all residents of the state to compulsorily get vaccinated for COVID-19.
The applicant’s lead counsel, Echezona Etiaba, SAN, arguing on the motion filed by Charles Osaretin against the governor and five others, urged the court to order the parties to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for the enforcement of the applicant’s fundamental human rights.
Etiaba prayed the court to grant leave to serve the respondents by publishing the court processes in a national daily.
Justice Adamu Turaki-Mohammed, in his ruling, granted the ex parte order.
Turaki-Mohammed adjourned till September 10 hearing of the substantive motion.
Meanwhile, state governments and experts, on Tuesday, differed on compulsory vaccination.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, on Tuesday, said that the state would not make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for eligible residents.
Omotoso, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the state planned to achieve herd immunity with the vaccination of over 60 per cent of its population.