NIGERIA. Pandemonium broke out in Anambra today over the commencement of a medical outreach by men of the Nigerian Army in Ozubulu, Ekwusigo local government area when soldiers stormed a school in the community to begin the administration of drugs to indigenes.
Rumour however went to town that the soldiers were in Anambra to inject children with vaccines as had allegedly been done in Bayelsa State with the hope of infecting them with the monkey pox disease.
The rumour had caused serious pandemonium in town as some people claimed that over 50 children had died in Nnewi after they were administered with the vaccines, leading parents to rush to the schools of their wards to withdraw them.
As early as 10am, most schools in Anambra had sent their pupils home to join their parents, while others shut their gate against visitors, to resist the attempt of anyone coming in to immunize the children.
In one of the missionary schools, the school management refused parents from picking up their wards, saying that if the parents were allowed in, some children may go missing in the pandemonium that would ensue.
The Army spokesperson Colonel Musa Sagir told journalists in a chat that the rumour was false. He stated that he was at the venue of the supposed medical outreach, and that the rumour of dead children was not true as no child had been immunized. He however promised to send in a full press release to state the position of Military.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State government has called for calm among citizens of the state, saying that there was no truth in the rumour that soldiers were injecting children to death.
A press release signed by the secretary to state government, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu stated that the outreach was a well intentioned exercise, but said that it was unfortunate that the military did not announce the exercise or sensitize the people of the state before arriving.
Part of the release reads, “The attention of the State Government has been drawn to an on going medical outreach being undertaken by the Army in Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Local Government Area.
“The State has been made to understand that the exercise is part of Army social responsibility to members of the public.
“However, strong apprehension among the populace has followed the exercise leading to withdrawal of students from schools by parents, misconception of the actual motive behind the exercise by stakeholders, community leaders and a general reservation by the public for whom the outreach is intended.”
The SSG further said that because of the unrest caused by the rumour, the Governor, Chief Willie Obiano has contacted the Army Authorities and advised for immediate stoppage of the medical outreach until wide sensitization is conducted to reassure people of its intentions and benefits. The exercise has therefore been put on hold.
He advised parents and guardians to stop withdrawing their wards from schools as the situation has been handled. He said all schools within the State will remain open as there was no cause for alarm.
Chukwulobelu assured community leaders, Presidents General and all stakeholders of the commitment of the Governor and the State Government to the wellbeing of Ndi Anambra.
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