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Strengthening U.S – Nigeria Trade Relations

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Observers say that Nigeria-U.S. bilateral relations have come a long way and some of them note that the relations witnessed a dramatic boost in 1999 with the restoration of Nigeria’s democracy.

Economists note that Nigeria’s main export to the U.S. is crude oil, while its imports from the U.S. include machineries and engineering equipment.

In 2008, for example, Nigeria, which currently stands as the 14th largest trading partner of the U.S., had a volume of trade valued at 42.2 billion dollars (about N6.3 trillion) with the U.S.

Statistics showed that Nigerian goods exported to the U.S. that year amounted to 4.1 billion dollars (about N615 billion), while imports from the U.S. totalled 38.1 billion dollars (about N5.7 trillion).

The goods imported from the U.S. in 2008 include vehicles — 974 million dollars (about N146 billion), wheat — 930 million dollars (about N139.5 billion), mineral fuel (oil) — 416 million dollars (about N62.4 billion) and electrical equipment — 202 million dollars (about N30.3 billion).

Nigerian exports to the U.S. in 2008 totalled 38.1 billion U.S. dollars (about N5.7 trillion), reflecting a 16.2 per cent increase of 5.3 billion dollars (about N795 billion) over the 2007 figure.

However, economists note that Nigeria’s export to the U.S. is predominantly crude oil, as its non-oil exports are somewhat insignificant.

As part of efforts to address this mono-product export and exploit fully other areas of the existing bilateral trade relations, the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed between Nigeria and the U.S. in 2000.  The agreement is part of a comprehensive U.S. strategy to support the federal government’s efforts to advance trade and economic development in Nigeria. 

In March 2009, at the 6th TIFA meeting in Washington, both countries agreed to hold an investment forum in the U.S. The major objective of the forum is to create a platform for American and Nigerian entrepreneurs to interact and strike profitable business deals.

It is also designed to provide a platform for the presentation of existing investment opportunities in Nigeria to U.S. corporate leaders and senior policy makers for consideration.

 The forum tagged: “1st U.S.A-Nigeria Business Forum’’, was organised between April 12 and 20 in three U.S. cities – Atlanta, Houston and Chicago — by the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Trade and the U.S Embassy in Nigeria.

The forum was organised to fast-track action in efforts to enhance trade and investment relations between Nigeria and the U.S.

Chief Jubril Martins-Kuye, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, who led the Nigerian delegation to the forum, urged Nigerian and American businessmen to take advantage of the abundant investment opportunities existing in Nigeria. Martins-Kuye pledged the federal government’s determination to improve the business environment and investment climate of Nigeria.

He said that the government had initiated some reforms in various sectors of the economy, particularly the power sector, to make the business environment more conducive to investors. “The various economic reforms initiated by the federal government, the anti-graft measures, transparency and the rule of law in place are meant to facilitate trade,’’ he said.

The minister expressed the hope that the business forum would engender a quantum leap in trade and investments between the two countries.

“The Federal Government believes that the forum will boost U.S. investments in Nigeria and stimulate value-added non-oil exports from Nigeria,’’ he said.

Martins-Kuye said that investments in the non-oil sector, especially through the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which Nigeria had not fully taken advantage of since 2000 when it came into force, were imperative.

“It is very unfortunate that some countries with less potential are taking advantage of AGOA and Nigeria is still seriously lagging behind,’’ he lamented.

Observers, nonetheless, express the happiness that the forum was able to X-ray and market the investment opportunities existing in the various sectors of the Nigerian economy.

The sectors presented to the U.S. market include tourism/hospitality, power/energy, solid minerals/mining, ICT/telecommunications, aviation/transport, SME development, banking and finance.

Others are infrastructure/construction, agriculture/agri-business, health/pharmaceuticals, oil/gas, marine/port development, environment and insurance.

The forum also gave some public agencies such as the Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA), Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) the chance to make presentations on existing investment opportunities.

NAFDAC, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) and the Raw Materials and Development Research Council (RMRDC), among others, also made presentations. 

NEPZA’s Managing Director, Mr Sina Agboluaje, invited the U.S. business community to invest in the 25 free trade zones in Nigeria, assuring them that they would have the opportunity to repatriate their profits.

“The law governing the free trade zones in Nigeria allows investors to repatriate their profits, dividends and capital appreciation across the border,’’ he said.

Agboluaje cited the benefits of investing in free trade zones as the reduction of initial capital outlay since infrastructural facilities like power, water and telecommunications were already in place in the zones.

He said that the fiscal incentives’ regime in the free trade zones also enabled approved enterprises to produce cheaply with duty deferral on articles of trade.

“Our clarion call is for American investors to invest in the free zones in Nigeria.

“The Nigerian Government is making efforts in several directions to improve the trade environment in Nigeria, with the free zones functioning as centres of excellence for doing business,’’ he said.

Agboluaje pledged that investors would be given the freedom to sell any proportion of their products in Nigeria even when the items were prohibited.

“They will be allowed for sale in Nigeria once it has up to 35 per cent value addition,’’ he said However, the NEPC Chief Executive, Mr David Adulugba, decried Nigeria’s low non-oil exports to the U.S., which were estimated at 1.8 billion dollars (about N 270 billion) in 2008.

He bemoaned the neglect of the non-oil sector, which, he recalled, made 97.4 per-cent contribution to the national economy in 1960, adding that the sector contributed as low as five per cent to the economy in 2008.

Adulugba said that Nigeria, blessed with rich natural resources, ought to use its natural endowment through exports to create employment.

“It is time for us to use our natural endowment to create wealth and employment,’’ he said.

Adulugba, however, noted that the greatest problem confronting non-oil exports was that of products’ packaging, since most products, regardless of how good they were, lacked proper presentation.

“A product must be able to sell itself on the shelf through proper packaging,’’ he said.

The NEPC chief said that virtually all the 36 states of the country were blessed with one commodity and solid mineral deposit or the other. “All of these resources are lying fallow, begging for exploitation by investors,’’ he said. Adulugba argued that Nigeria had the finest varieties of coffee and tea in the world, adding that the two crops were grown in commercial quantities on the Mambilla Plateau in Adamawa. He stressed that Nigeria had enormous investment opportunities in agro-allied industry, textiles, forest-based industry, leather, stone and mineral-based industries. One of the major constraints of exports to the U.S. has been identified as the lack of access to cheap finance for exporters.

“The constraints to Nigerian exporters include limited access to credit, infrastructure deficiencies, weak access to primary products, among others,’’ he said.  A representative of the Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM), Mrs Saratu Umar, called on Nigerian investors to avail themselves of the export finance opportunities offered by the bank.

She said that NEXIM was set up to provide credit risk to exporters through lending to exporters in local and foreign currencies.

Umar said that exporters were also being assisted with NEXIM’s facilities to stock their commodities when they were off-season, so as to enable them sell the goods during favourable seasons.   

She said that Nigeria, being one of the notable importers of U.S. goods, should be able to do business with U.S. importers if good financial assistance outlets were available.

For Prof. Ade Adefuye, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S., the forum would afford American entrepreneurs the opportunity to understand the major economic reforms initiated by the Federal Government.

The ambassador, who was represented by Miss Lara Butto, an official of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, stressed that the reforms were hinged on the government’s determination to create a market-driven economy.

“For those of you who know little about Nigeria’s economy, I am very optimistic that at the end of this forum, you will be able to understand our economic terrain. “You will also be able to appreciate our abundant human and natural resources, while resolving to partner with us in harnessing these resources. “Indeed, it has been proven that whichever form of investment is made in Nigeria, the returns have been very profitable,’’ Adefuye said.

The general viewpoint on the U.S. side, however, was that apart from the forum, there has been scanty publicity on Nigerian investment opportunities.

It is pertinent to note that many entrepreneurs, including members of the Houston Citizens Chamber of Commerce in Houston and the Continental Africa Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, attended the forum.

Besides, officials of the U.S. Trade Department, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), among others, also participated in the forum.

Mr Kenny Efunpo, a Nigerian and a board member of Houston Citizens Chamber of Commerce, said that Nigerians in Houston should be encouraged to invest in Nigeria. He put their remittances in 2009 at about four million U.S. dollars (about N600 million).

Efunpo, who was the first African President of the African-American Chamber of Commerce from 2004 to 2005, said that some 250,000 Nigerians were living in Houston, adding that 25 per cent of the people were professionals. Efunpo, who is into oil and gas, said that the remittance figure was extracted from a Western Union report. “You will agree with me that it is a lot of revenue for Nigeria,’’ he said.

He said that in the past, the 75-year-old Chamber had been trying to organise a trade mission to Nigeria to explore the investment opportunities in the country.

“It is very good that Nigeria has taken the initiative to come and see how we can improve the economic, industrial and political situation in the country.

“But the programme was not much publicised in the U.S., especially in Houston. If it was well publicised, more business people would have attended,’’ he said. Efunpo said that in the next two months, the chamber would be leading a delegation of investors to Nigeria to explore investment opportunities in the construction, housing and real estate sectors.

He noted that the discussions between Nigerian and American businessmen at the forum were “meaningful’’, adding that the forum would foster improved trade and investment relations between the two countries. 

However, some of the forum’s participants attributed the low level of U.S. investments in Nigeria to the bad external image of Nigeria, promoted by the foreign press.

They, therefore, called on the Federal Government to embark on an aggressive image-laundering activity to change the erroneous public perception of Nigeria in the U.S.

For Mr Ademola Dada, the President of the Continental Africa Chamber of Commerce in Illinois, U.S., the forum would help to counter the negative perception of Nigeria created by the foreign media.

“We have to promote many face-to-face meetings like this continually since we cannot influence bad press about Nigeria,’’ he said.

Dr Wale Ajifolokun, Managing Director of Air Cargo and Travel Agency in Chicago, said that Nigeria should strive to “boost its own ego and write its own story its own way.

“If you wait for people to write it for you, they will do that from their own perspectives, which may be wrong,’’ he said.

Ajifolokun said that apart from the challenges of inadequate power supply, bad transportation and insecurity, Nigeria’s bad image had been scaring away potential investors from the country.

Dr Adetunji Oyedele, an exporter, particularly called on the government to address the problems of insecurity and kidnapping in the country.

“The Ministry of Information needs to constantly sell the country to the outside world; a country needs to be sold to the whole world.

“Ironically, the only time they get to know about Nigeria is only when something bad has happened,’’ he said.

For Chief David Olupitan, an international business consultant and co-founder of the 35-year-old Continental Africa Chamber of Commerce, the organisation of such a forum was long overdue. “It will go a long way in addressing some wrong perceptions about Nigeria,’’ he said.

Olupitan, therefore, called on Nigerian entrepreneurs to promote their products in the U.S. through direct adverts or via such forum.

“Nobody can speak well of you than yourself; we need to start talking and shouting about ourselves and what we are doing,’’ he said.

The U.S. policy makers, however, made some pledges which reflect the prospects of increasing trade and investment with Nigeria. Ms Julie Carducci, the Deputy Director, U.S. Department of Commerce, said that the department would intensify efforts to assist U.S. companies in finding new markets in Nigeria.

She said that the department supported U.S. companies’ exports to Nigeria, while matchmaking the companies with their Nigerian counterparts.

She, therefore, urged Nigerian companies to work with their U.S. counterparts in efforts to export goods with the required American qualities to the U.S.

Carducci urged Nigerian companies to participate in the trade shows organised in the U.S. to further strengthen their investment opportunities.

The trade shows will take place in Houston, La Vegas, Dallas and New Orleans in August.

“We have in the past supported trade missions to Nigeria. We hope to organise more of such missions to further explore the investment opportunities in the country,’’ she said.

Mary Roberts, the Deputy Director, Office of Trade and Investments in Chicago, welcomed the Nigerian delegation to Chicago, saying: “It is the largest city and centre of commerce for the entire world.

Roberts said that Illinois ranked 5th among the U.S. states concerning exports to Africa, while Nigeria ranked 4th among African countries getting Illinois exports.

Dr Cynthia Fontenet, an American businesswoman, said that the forum was timely, as both countries had a lot to benefit from each other.

She said that the U.S., with its high technology and industrial capacity, could benefit immensely from Nigeria with its enormous human and natural resources.

“This is bridging the gap and this connection with each other in commerce and industry is definitely the key to success,’’ she said.

The U.S.-Nigeria Forum is the outcome of the Trade and Investment Agreement (TIFA), whose objective also include providing a platform for deliberating on how trade opportunities can be explored, while a balance of trade is achieved.

Gov Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, who was represented by the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Dr Emem Wills, said that the government had done a lot in making the state an investors’ haven.

“In the last three years, the state has concentrated on the development of state’s infrastructure, We constructed roads, our Independent Power Supply Project has been completed, we are liaising with the PHCN for distribution,’’ Akpabio said.

The high point of the forum was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), between the Federal Government and the International Trade Centre, Houston, and the Continental Africa Chamber of Commerce, Chicago.  

One of the objectives of the agreement is to improve trade between Nigeria and the U.S., while enhancing value added oil and non-oil exports from Nigeria to the U.S.

The organisations will collaborate with Nigeria in promoting exportable products from Nigeria, under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Nigeria from the U.S.  

All the same, industry operators have consistently harped on the need to improve the country’s infrastructure, especially power, so as to create conducive environment for investors.

However, Mr David Adejuwon, the Acting Director of Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, emphasized that potential investors should not wait for everything to be put in place before deciding to invest.

“If you have to wait for all challenges to go away, the investment space may not be available again,’’ he said. (NANFeatures)

 

 

Grace Yusuf

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…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.

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Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria

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In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines  more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations  to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network  (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim,  according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan,  explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is  also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area –  career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him,  it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in  workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun  Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank  will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
 According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch  of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency,  points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should  have courage and confidence in taking risks within  organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer,  Standard  Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
 She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
 For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but  about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
 Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian  women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population –  mainly women –  economically unviable.
 A First Bank customer,  Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN –  benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
 “If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to  enhance gender parity.


By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

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Covid-19 Vaccination: Role Of Local Leaders

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It was a matter of time, but Covid-19 vaccination has already started to generate heated arguments following a hint that the Federal Government could start sanctioning anybody who refused to be vaccinated.
Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director,  National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, disclosed this at a recent press conference in Abuja. He, however, said that implementation was dependent on availability of the vaccines.
“The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health are exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians, including federal civil servants and corporate entities.
“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, then we will need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy.
“So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others,” he said.
Already, attempts have been made by two states – Ondo and Edo – to make Covid-19 vaccination compulsory, especially for public servants and members of the public who wish to gain access to certain places.
These places include religious worship centres, banks and public buildings.
However, those attempts and the suggestion that the Federal Government might sanction those who refuse vaccination have been criticised by some trade, professional and religious associations.
 The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) that kicked against the compulsory vaccination, said that government should rather embark on advocacy and persuasion, than coerce citizens into getting vaccinated.
The spokesman for JOHESU, Mr Olumide Akintayo, said the policy would only be sensible if there were enough vaccines to inoculate eligible citizens.
Akintayo stated: “If you are thinking of it in terms of responsibility, it makes sense; but practically, we all know it is an impossible task.
“ If all the doses that have been sent to Nigeria since this outbreak is less than 10 million, how do you enforce that kind of policy in a country of over 200 million people?
“You don’t just come up with policies that are not backed by common sense; you don’t just say things because you want to talk. It would have made some sense if the vaccines are available for everyone.”
The General Secretary of the NMA, Philips Ekpe, said citizens could not be forced to be vaccinated against Covid-19 the same way they had the right to reject medical treatment.
Rather than being forced, he said Nigerians should be made to understand the need to be vaccinated. 
According to him, although they cannot be forced, citizens who refuse vaccination should stay in their houses so that they don’t endanger others.
He said: “The Federal Government needs to make people understand the reason why they need to be vaccinated. They have the right to say no. You cannot force people. People have the right to say no to medical treatment.
“But you should let them understand the dangers of not getting vaccinated.
“For example, if you want to travel out of the country, if you are not vaccinated, you will not be let in. The reason is because the other country you are going to won’t want to endanger the lives of its citizens.
“Let them understand the importance, but then if they refuse, they should stay in their houses and not go out and endanger others.”
Experts believe that properly communicating the advantages of being vaccinated, through the use of existing structures, such as religious and cultural institutions, would yield better results than subtle threats.
Communication connotes persuasion, even on occasions when the purpose of a piece of communication is not to persuade, there is still the need to win over the audience to accept the message.
In this era of fake news, and when the social media is awash with conspiracy theories against vaccination, persuasion must first be deployed to get the attention of citizens.
The burden increases tremendously when there are cultural and religious stereotypes which could prevent many adherents from accepting that being vaccinated is safe.
This challenge is not peculiar to Nigeria. In the U.S. for instance, vaccine hesitancy is responsible for over 90 per cent of all Covid-19 related hospitalisation.
Getting some Americans vaccinated has been so challenging that many people have been offered monetary incentives to convince them to get vaccinated in an unusual case of persuasion.
In Nigeria, where religious and traditional leaders are custodians of faith and culture respectively, they wield great influence on devotees and those institutions can be deployed to boost vaccination drive.
Historically, religious and traditional rulers often employ the cognitive process of persuasive communication to change an entrenched social perception or public opinion hindering required public support for relevant people-oriented policies.
Leaders have the influence to subtly appeal to the target to listen, accept, comprehend and act.
Therefore, before considering the stick, government should first explore the use of carrot.
Religious and traditional leaders can help in giving correct messages on vaccination as well as being role models, making sure that they and their loved ones too are vaccinated.
Faith-based and culture-based organisations can also collaborate with other leaders to sensitise communities on the benefits of vaccination and to also dispel the many myths and disinformation about it.
King Bubaraye Dakolo of Epetiama Kingdom in Bayelsa has been putting this practice to use, since vaccination was first rolled out in Nigeria in March.
“The arrival of the vaccine brought a huge relief to our kingdom. I mobilised my people to carry out awareness campaigns in the various communities to guard against apathy.
“My council chiefs and I led by example in being vaccinated early. When the people saw that, they were fully convinced that the vaccine is not harmful.
“We made it clear to our people through town hall meetings that the vaccine is safe and is designed to save humanity.
“We equally reminded them how some persons who refused to be vaccinated for poliomyelitis in the past are suffering the consequences of their actions today,” the traditional ruler said. 
According to the WHO Covid-19 Dashboard, Nigeria had administered 4.4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses as at Aug. 31, 2021. Out of that number, 2.9 million Nigerians have been fully vaccinated, according to the NPHCDA.
With a fairly efficient vaccination structure, owing to many years of immunisation against polio, the Nigerian government should activate collaboration with religious and traditional bodies in its vaccination drive.
Experts, including health professionals and public administrators, believe that involving these leaders in advocacy and public enlightenment will lead to more people accepting to voluntarily get Covid-19 vaccination.
Of course, with just a paltry 0.7 per cent of the population vaccinated, the key indicator for any punitive measure for avoiding vaccination will be subject to availability of the vaccines.
However, to achieve the goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of its 200 million population before the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the end of 2022, Nigeria will need more than availability of vaccines.
There has to be the acceptance and willingness of the majority of its population to be vaccinated.
One of the crucial and effective way to achieve that is to work with religious and traditional leaders.

By: Kayode Adebiyi

Adebiyi writes for News Agency of Nigeria.

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