A country that asks for an extension of dependency after she is deemed ready for independence, should be ashamed of herself, no matter the reason for her seeking continued dependency. For Nigeria, we know our current predicament of begging for an extension of dependency has nothing to do with our lack of resources, in any ramification.


For the Nigerians at the Gavi Board meeting of Wednesday June 6, 2018, the discussion on the issue of Nigeria transiting from Gavi support, was both tense and traumatic. It may not have been the first occasion when being a Nigeria has brought debilitating pains.

One of the conditions given for discussing the issue was that Nigeria must pay back the Gavi money misused in previous years. Gavi had conducted a full scale Cash Programme Audit (CPA) covering the period January 1, 2010 to March 31, 2015. The initial audit exposed irregular and/or ineligible use of funds totaling US$2.2 million, and the final one discovered an additional misuse of US$5.4 million; hence, in total, for the period under review, Nigeria had misused a total of US$7.6 million. After a prolonged, contentious and intractable back and forth communication between Gavi and Nigeria, the country agreed to pay back the misused fund to Gavi, in the face of overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence. The first amount of US$2.2 million was paid in 2015. The minister who authorised and ensured that the misused money was refunded, was declared a national traitor. We then agreed in 2017 to pay the second tranche of the misused US$5.4 million in two instalments. We paid the first installment towards the end of 2017, and promised to pay the second instalment after the budget approval in 2018. Payment of the second tranche of a little over US$2 million was the condition upon which the discussion for our request for the transition extension to 2028 was anchored. Gavi insisted that the money must be credited to their account before the matter would be tabled.

A day before the discussion on the matter, Nigeria had produced documentary evidence that instruction had been given for the money to be paid, but Gavi had not yet received an alert of the payment. We met during the tea break to discuss the issue: What happens if Gavi does not receive the evidence that the money had been deposited into their account? Will discussion of the Nigerian extension be shelved indefinitely or postponed till another Gavi Board meeting in November 2018? Would Nigeria’s failure to meet the payment timeline adversely affect the outcome of our request? These and many other questions agitated our minds. Frantic efforts (emails, telephone calls, tweets, texts WhatsApp, etc.) were made by all those who had access to one Nigerian government official or the other. In and outside the meeting rooms, led by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerians present engaged other Board members in discussions on garnering support for Nigeria. It was in this state of uncertainty that the meeting resumed after the last tea break for the day, and Nigeria’s request was tabled for discussion.

I will cry against those who, by illegally pocketing the resources of our nation, have denied our children the vaccines they need and thereby committed cold blooded murder of millions of Nigerian children dying from vaccine preventable diseases. I will cry!


The Board chair, our own Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, introduced the matter, followed by comments from the Gavi Board CEO, Seth Berkley, confirming that Nigeria was yet to fulfil her commitment to pay the final instalment of the misused funds, a pre-requisite for discussing the request. The discussion was then thrown open, for Board members to decide whether to suspend or go ahead with the discussion. A dozen or so name plates stood on their legs, indicating the desire to contribute to the discussion. By this time, all Nigerians on the Board – (none of whom was actually representing Nigeria, but different constituencies) were recused from contributing to the discussion to avoid any appearance of bias. Speaker upon speaker pleaded, not for Nigeria, but for the over five million children of Nigeria who may not receive, annually, the necessary vaccines and may end up maimed by polio, or die from other preventable diseases – whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, diarrhea, pneumonia, yellow fever, meningitis, to mention a few. Along with the pleadings, and in subtle and diplomatic language, Nigeria got some bashing. For all the diplomacy and niceties, the “Baba’nriga” of an “ohi” is not “aso iyi”. (The gorgeous dress of a thief is not a garment of honour). Where I sat, mute as the famous Owerri Zuma statue, their words came as flying darts to my heart, my pride, my ego, my patriotism, and my being. Their nice words metamorphosed into questions in my mind, producing different interpretations. How come a nation so rich with enough resources to fully vaccinate every child AND MORE, is asking for such a long extension? It is good that the Nigerian government accepted to refund the misused funds, but has any individual being held accountable? Or is the government endorsing misuse of money? Why does Nigeria have to wait until the last minute to fulfil her obligation? Why should a country like Nigeria, with such talented individuals, become pawns in the hands of a few unscrupulous leaders? Incredible that such a high level of GDP can translate to Gross Domestic Poverty? Is Nigeria’s paper commitment worth the piece of paper it is written on? When Nigeria says we are on the same page, confirm that what is written in the first paragraph is not the opposite of what is in the second or final paragraph.

The discussion was long. To us Nigerians, each minute was like an hour, each word, a ton of lead on our weary soul. At the end, there was unanimity in approving Nigeria’s request. However, it came with conditions. Nigeria must fulfil her financial and programmatic commitments, set in place an accountability frame work, and be ready for high level annual reviews and a comprehensive mid-term review in 2022-2023 on the progress of Gavi’s support

Knowing my country, I would have said the accountability framework should be in place, before any fund is released; that in addition to the high level annual reviews, there should be an additional mid-year review. Remembering that the National Assembly manages to approve the national budget six months into the year, we should find a method for fulfilling our financial obligations upfront, possibly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. After all, we bought fighter jets with funds from the CRF pre-National Assembly approval. Finally, those responsible for misusing the US$7.6 million Gavi fund should be thoroughly investigated, and all who are found guilty should spend the rest of their lives in jail – a small price to pay for all Nigerian children who died from the lack of access to vaccines for preventable diseases.

A minute or so, after the approval of Nigeria’s request, a colleague congratulated me, but observed that I was looking unhappy. I told him I could cry for my country, but I would not. I should shed tears for my nation, but no more.


Ordinarily, graduating from Gavi support, or to be free of dependency on donor funds to take care of the health of one’s children (which hits the nail on the head) should be an occasion for celebration. It is a recognition that a country, after years of depending on others to take care of her children, has now reached the level where through good governance, judicious use of resources in a transparent and accountable manner, can boldly proclaim her true independence. A country that asks for an extension of dependency after she is deemed ready for independence, should be ashamed of herself, no matter the reason for her seeking continued dependency. For Nigeria, we know our current predicament of begging for an extension of dependency has nothing to do with our lack of resources, in any ramification. We are beggars because of our flagrant and absolute misuse, misapplication and wastage of our resources. I am not saying anything new. Just check the media and hear of millions and billions of naira buried in soak away tanks, sewn inside mattresses, lofted into overhead water tanks, and lodged into fake (almost untraceable) accounts. In February this year, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reported that the agency, between January and December 2017, recovered more than N473 billion, $98 million, €7 million, and £294,000, among others. These others included N449 million discovered at a plaza in Lagos, $43 million discovered in an apartment in Ikoyi area of Lagos, N329 billion from petroleum marketers in Kano, while withholding tax of over N27.7 billion was retrieved from banks. Do we need to mention that in addition to the $322 million recovered from Switzerland, our attorney general and minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami said on Wednesday June 13 2018, that Nigeria will soon repatriate another $500 million which one of our former heads of state looted and locked up in other countries. Yet in June 2018, Nigeria rolls out the drums, and almost declares a national holiday to celebrate that we will be a Gavi dependent country for the next ten years! We should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves!

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A minute or so, after the approval of Nigeria’s request, a colleague congratulated me, but observed that I was looking unhappy. I told him I could cry for my country, but I would not. I should shed tears for my nation, but no more.

Now I will, like a town crier, cry with my voice, my pen, my thoughts and my being. I will lift up harsh and piercing voice against the leader-looters who are the shame of our land. I will cry against the plunderers of our nation, who have replaced shame with arrogance; compassion with coldness; humanity with inhumanity and hope with despair. I will cry against those who, by illegally pocketing the resources of our nation, have denied our children the vaccines they need and thereby committed cold blooded murder of millions of Nigerian children dying from vaccine preventable diseases. I will cry! I have often said that I owe this country much more than I can ever repay because I am and will always be proud that Nigeria gave me all I needed to become what I am now. My greatest pain is that the same country that did so much for me, is now turning her expert into a novice, and at best a mediocre.

Oyewale Tomori, a professor of virology, is a board member of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI).