By Ononye VC
Barely one week after Nigeria emerged as one of six African countries to champion the production of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa, the Presidency has said that the decision resulted from the concerted effort of eminent Nigerians on the global stage.

In a piece released on Wednesday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the Presidency explained that Nigeria’s leader, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had joined the roundtable on health issues and vaccine production to make the last pitch and push in the build-up to the selection of the countries for the production of the vaccines.

The piece is titled ‘A look at takeaways from President Buhari’s visit to Belgium.’

On February 18, 2022, The PUNCH had reported that the decision was taken at the just concluded African Union-European Union Summit in Brussels, Belgium.

According to Shehu, the decision by the EU to choose vaccine-manufacturing African countries based on the “weighted influence of their European ex-colonial masters” did not go down well with the President. Hence the push for Nigeria’s inclusion.

The piece stated, “The structure of the summit, unlike the ones in the past, was not formatted as a plenary. After the opening ceremonies and ‘Family Photographs,’ leaders went into focused deliberations at thematic roundtables—seven of them—with each leader, African or European—expected to make the choice of only two meetings to sit it.

“For President Muhammadu Buhari, naturally, the first choice to make was to co-chair the panel on Peace, Security and Governance. These are some of the existential challenges facing Nigeria. The second roundtable he chose was on health issues and vaccine production.

The Presidency revealed that ahead of the AU-EU summit, the World Health Organisation had selected four countries in which to facilitate Vaccine Production on the continent.

“The selected countries—obviously emerging from the weighted influence of their European ex-colonial masters—were Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal. The Buhari regime was convinced that these were unfair choices,” the Presidency said.

This is because, like many other countries on the continent, Nigeria had suffered from Vaccine nationalism over the peak periods of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Vaccines were not available for sale to Nigeria, and when it came to donations, either that country was given too little, too late or in some cases about–to-expire vaccines which had to be destroyed shortly after they arrived on Nigerian shores.

Another reason is Nigeria, being Africa’s biggest economy, has the largest bank of professional and skilled men and women. In terms of population size, one out of every five Africans is a Nigerian.

The AU-EU summit in Brussels also witnessed the first-ever meeting of the Africa Union “Group of Four,” which was held at its side-lines.

The group comprises Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Algeria (and Senegal and one other co-opted). It is considered Africa’s equivalent of the G8 (now G7) in global affairs with a mandate to resolve various issues confronting the African continent.

The G4 leaders used the opportunity to discuss crisis areas in the continent to find practical and effective solutions.

“This, hopefully, is a very influential group and a big one for Nigeria as a platform for bringing African countries together, coordinating actions and reaction for the continent proactively, and looking at how decisions could be better implemented,” the Presidency noted.

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