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Workers plead for more time as FG enforces compulsory COVID-19 vaccination 

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THERE was chaos at the Phase One section of the Federal Secretariat Complex, Central Business District, Abuja, in the early hours of Wednesday as the Federal Government began the enforcement of compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for its workers.

The government had set December 1 deadline for the exercise for all its workers across the country.

Workers who came to work without their vaccination cards were turned back by the security officials manning the gate of the complex.

That part of the Secretariat has at least six ministries and other agencies and departments of the Federal Government.

Some workers claimed they were unaware of the directive and begged the authorities to give them more time to take the jab.

After almost an hour of bickering, the security officials allowed the workers to go into their respective offices with a strict warning they must take the jab today.

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Our reporter reliably gathered that the officials kept over a hundred workers outside before they got a counter directive.

“We allowed only staff who had the vaccination card to go in early this morning until we received instruction from our superior that we should give them today’s grace since some of them said they were not aware of the directive. 

“We told them to go for the vaccination today. So, by tomorrow morning, if you come here, you can’t see any worker who does not have their card in any of the offices. We won’t allow them in. That’s the instruction given to us, and we will carry it out,” one of the officials told our reporter when asked why his team allowed every worker to go into the premises unchecked, around 9:15 am.”

Scores of the workers thronged the booth used for the vaccination in front of the complex to have their jabs to enable them to beat the 24-hour deadline set by the security officials.

Meanwhile, the ministries of health and education, which occupy other sections of the Secretariat, did not check whether their workers had the cards or not.

Finding by our reporter showed that guards at the ministries got no directive to conduct any check on the staff.

All security officers at the ministries confirmed they had not begun the check. “We only enforced the use of face mask for now,” one of the officers said.

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Speaking with The ICIR at the Secretariat, John Obey, a worker with the Investments and Securities Tribunal, said workers were not forced to take the vaccine. 

Responding to workers who were barred from entering, he said: “It’s regrettable that the Federal Government had issued a directive for more than a month ago. Why didn’t they comply with the order? Why did they allow themselves to be embarrassed before rushing to get themselves vaccinated?”

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He said the government had scheduled the vaccination exercise across all the ministries. “Some people who are being recalcitrant are the ones rushing today to get themselves vaccinated.”

He said there were centres in all the ministries.

Some of the workers who watched him during the interview said his claim that vaccination centres were in all ministries was untrue.

One of them was Ezekwe Kingsley who works in the Federal Ministry of Aviation.

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He said the government did not make good COVID-19 vaccination plans for its workers and expressed sadness that they were sent back from the gate on Wednesday morning.

“If you don’t show your card, evidence of the vaccine that you are taking it, you won’t enter into the office. They checked us at the gate and locked us out this morning. I always come to work early. They locked us out before 8 am this morning.

“I asked them why they were stopping us. They said no vaccine card, no entry. They turned us back and told us to go and take the vaccine.”

According to him, workers in some ministries had not been paid salaries since October, noting that he foresaw no punishment from the government for any worker who didn’t come to the office because of not taking the jab.

Claim by Obey may not also be true because our reporter could not locate many centres used for the exercise as he said.

Health officials at the booth in front of the Secretariat were overwhelmed by the government workers.

The Federal Government made the vaccination compulsory following vaccine apathy and hesitancy among Nigerians.

As of November 9, about 3.1 million people in the country had got their full vaccination, representing 2.8 per cent of the eligible population targeted for COVID-19 vaccination in the country.

As of December 1, data on the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC) dashboard showed that 214,218 were confirmed positive for the virus. Two hundred and seven thousand, three hundred and four persons had been discharged, while 2,977 had died from the disease.

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