In the just concluded week, given the inadequate provision in the 2021 Appropriation Act for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, the Federal Government has reportedly swung to work to prepare supplementary Appropriation Bill, that would authorize its spending on vaccines procurement, which it intends to submit to the National Assembly before April 2021.
According to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, the additional budget for the procurement of the vaccines became necessary given the need to cover for the initial shortfall in the 2021 budget.
Hence, the legislators set April 2021 as deadline for the consideration and approval of the supplementary Appropriation Bill.
Dousing the concern of late procurement of the vaccines due to possible delay in appropriating funds, the Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, noted that the first of 16 million doses of COVAX-procured COVID-19 vaccines are free and are expected to arrive at the country soon.
COVAX is an entity run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), and is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations.
Its mission is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can’t compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari extended the tenure of the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, who was due for retirement on Monday, February 1, 2021 after 35 years in service, by three months.
According to the Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammad Dingyadi, the extension was to allow for a robust and efficient process of appointing a new IG.
However, according to Mr. Akinlolu Kehinde (SAN), the Nigerian Constitution and the Police Act are silent on the power of the President to extend the tenure of the IG but only empower the President to appoint and remove the IG from office.
We note that the move by the President to present a supplementary budget to the National Assembly for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines is in keeping with democratic norms and we expect expedited approvals from a friendly legislature.
This will however further widen the budget deficit of the Federal Government even though the vaccine may not be a silver bullet.
We would rather prefer a situation in which the Federal Government sought supplementary budget approval in order to, more holistically, improve capacity at primary healthcare levels, increase testing facilities, ensure proper functioning of isolation and treatment centres, ensure steady supply of medicines and medical equipment and prioritize the safety of healthcare workers as they manage cases.
Meanwhile, the extension of the IG’s tenure and the late removal of the service chiefs further reiterate the poor handling and the reactive nature of the Presidency as regards its succession plan for most public servants