NOT less than 80,000 of Yellow cards that are issued to Nigerians as a proof of being administered with the yellow fever vaccine before travelling out of the country are now being sold in the markets and streets, without the travellers taking the vaccine, and causing the government to lose up to N200 million.
This was revealed in a report of an investigation carried out by Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, a civil society organization working in the areas of accountability and anti-corruption.
The report revealed that some top officials of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) carted away some of the e-yellow cards printed by the Federal Government which are meant to be issued to individuals after they must have taken the vaccine at the designated clinics, airports and border posts.
The card which officially costs N2,500 is sold to prospective travellers at prices as high as N5,000 without taking the vaccine, thereby undermining the objective of the yellow fever immunization.
The government has been making efforts to recover all the stolen cards with little success.
A copy of the yellow card obtained by PRIMORG undercover reporter was marked B947006 bearing the Nigerian coat of arms and a scan code to verify the card’s authenticity while the medical detail in the card was pre-filled, indicating the type and milligram, the date and the official stamps of the “PORT HEALTH OFFICE, FMOH NIGERIA”.
Earlier in February, the federal government had approved the issuance of Yellow Card that could be read electronically to eliminate the incidents of forgery and sales of fake cards at designated locations.
To kickstart the issuance of the new cards in April, the Health Ministry printed one million e-cards in two batches─ 500,000 copies each for the A and B categories. Government has hoped to make over N2 billion from the sales but as thousands were stolen, the projected revenue reduced and the yellow diseases increase.
“Some unscrupulous staff stole a chunk of the cards from batch B and began sales of it in the open market to travellers who do not go through the process of vaccination,” the report stated.
“We gathered that the Ports Services Unit has not exhausted the yellow cards in the Batch A category. But the containers housing batch B was violated and bulks of them stolen by some of the health officials who were mandated to keep them safe.
“It is believed that the cards at the black market will be worth more than N200 million,” said PRIMORG.
Though the government has identified those who cart away the printed cards, no serious actions have been taken against them.
An official that had stolen 11,000 cards at Kano was only removed from the issuing desk of the Port Health Services Unit of the Federal Ministry Health to another unit. That means the official carted away goods worth N27.5 million at the official price of N2,500.
“The incident in Kano has not been properly investigated as some of the indicted officials have tapped on high-level connections in government to silence the senior Ministry officials in Abuja to achieve a cover-up,” PRIMORG reported.
According to the World Health Organisation, Yellow Fever is a viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes to humans. Symptoms of yellow fever include fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
It could become deadly for individuals not vaccinated. It could affect the liver and the kidneys. It could also cause jaundice- yellowing of the skin and eye, dark urine and abdominal pain with vomiting. Bleeding could occur from the mouth, nose, eyes or stomach.
“Half of the patients who enter the toxic phase die within 7 – 10 days,” said WHO.
Meanwhile, the disease is prevented by vaccine. The vaccine provides effective immunity within 30 days for more than 99 per cent of people vaccinated.
Nigeria has a high prevalence of yellow fever with an increase in 2019.
According to the weekly epidemiological report published by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control for the Week 38 in 2019, Nigeria has recorded 2,674 suspected cases of yellow fever, and 65 of the people have died as against one death recorded in the whole of 2018.