Teachers and pupils in many parts of Akwa Ibom State are fleeing schools over the fear of a forced vaccination by the Nigerian Army Medical Corps currently carrying out operations in the Niger Delta region.
A source in Oron Local Government Area of the state, who gave his name simply as Eyoabasi, told this newspaper trouble started when the people saw vehicles conveying heavily-armed soldiers in the area.
“We heard on the radio the other day that the Nigerian Army was carrying out an operation in the Niger Delta region. We were not told there was going to be vaccination,” he said on the telephone.
“But early today, we heard that apart from their routine security operations, their medical corps was going to offer free treatment to our children in schools.
“We don’t know what kind of vaccination they are bringing to give our children and that is why we have gone to school to withdraw our kids.”
Mr. Eyoabasi said there was confusion in many parts of the state as people no longer trust the Army with its free medical outreach.
He argued that the military should subject whatever vaccine it has brought to inoculate children in the state to an investigation by the civil medical personnel.
The NEXT EDITION learnt that teachers and pupils of the Christ Kingdom International Academy, Isangidihi Street, in Oron town fled the school because of the rumoured vaccination
Other public schools in the area were also said to have also shut down and children sent home to avoid being trapped and inoculated by the soldiers.
However, a teacher in one of the public secondary schools in Obot Akara Local Government Area of the state, Mrs. Ubong Udo, told this newspaper, a decision has been taken not to allow students in any school in the area to be vaccinated.
“We have given instruction to the gatemen to alert us as soon as the site the military coming towards our school,” she said.
“We have also alerted everyone to run away through the back gates as soon as the compound master rings the school bell with a sense of urgency.”
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Information, Charles Udoh, said the state government was aware of the situation.
He assured that the commissioner for health will soon issue an official statement on the matter.
“We don’t know what kind of vaccination the Nigerian Army is planning to give our children. The state government has not been consulted by the military on the planned inoculation and so we will not allow any child in the state to be vaccinated,” he said.
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Rumour began shortly after the military declared free medical services in the areas it carried out an operation it code-named, “Python Dance.”
The fear was that the pupils were being forcefully vaccinated with the dreaded Monkey Pox virus currently ravaging some parts of the country.
The rumour, which began in Anambra soon spread to Imo, Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states, where parents also made haste to go to the schools to withdraw their children.
The government of Enugu State and the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army have both condemned the rumour, describing it as mischievous.
In a statement by the Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, Sagir Musa, the military the medical outreach in the south east had any sinister motive.
“The attention of the 82 Division Nigerian Army (NA), has been drawn to a silly and mischievous publication now trending on the social media alleging that the ongoing free medical services giving to some communities in the South Eastern Region of Nigeria is with a sinister motive of depopulating the region through the so called “monkey pox vaccination” purportedly being conducted by the NA in the region,” the army statement read.
“The Division wishes to make it clear that the free medical outreach is not a vaccine intended to infect monkey pox or any major contemporary or emerging diseases in Nigeria to the people of South East or any part of the country.
“The exercise is part of the corporate social responsibility initiatives imbued in to the overall Exercise EGWU EKE 11 package, to the people of the South Eastern Region which is the Area of Responsibility of the 82 Division NA and is also the theatre of the Exercise.
“Instructively, the free medical services in the region started on the 18th of September 2017 in Nkwaagu community of Abakaliki Local Government Area (LGA) of Ebonyi State. At the event, the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, the Chairman of the LGA and some traditional rulers of the benefiting community were there at the flag off of the exercise by the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General TY Buratai.