The Nigerian Army in Rivers state has debunked rumours alleging that soldiers were forcefully vaccinating primary and secondary school children with the purpose of injecting them with unknown diseases in some communities.
The rumour began last week in some south-east states where fears of a military vaccination in schools said to be part of the Army’s Operation Python Dance, sent parents and school children scampering for safety.
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, Yobe and Ondo states, where parents also made haste to go to the schools to withdraw their children.
It also reached the South-south region such that the Bayelsa State Government had to announce a ban on all forms of medical outreach programme in public and private schools throughout the state to calm anxious parents.
The government of Enugu State and the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army have both condemned the rumour, describing it as mischievous.
In the same vein, a statement signed by the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col Aminu Iliyasu on Tuesday, Oct.17 disclosed that the Army’s Special Security and Training Exercise for the South-South and South West code-named ‘Operation Crocodile Smile 2’ will only proceed with its free medical outreaches segment to designated communities only after the consent of relevant authorities have been given.
Noting that the medical outreach segment was yet to commence in those rumoured areas, the Army stressed that designated venues and dates for such medical outreaches will be duly communicated to the general public through press releases and relevant posters. The statement reads:
“The attention of Headquarters 6 Division Nigerian Army has been drawn to some rumours making the rounds that some Nigerian Army Personnel are going round schools in Rivers State dressed in Military Camouflage uniforms with the intention of forcefully vaccinating students with an unknown substance.
“The callous and unpatriotic rumours spread by these enemies of State are, to say the least, despicable, deplorable and highly condemnable by all well-meaning Nigerians as they are intended to cause pandemonium among the general public.
“The authorities of 6 Division Nigerian Army wishes to inform the general public that while the Nigerian Army plans to undertake such gestures like free medical outreaches, sanitation exercises in host communities and distribution of educational materials as part of our community relations activities during the ongoing Operation Crocodile Smile II, these activities are yet to be conducted”.
“It will eventually be conducted with the consent of relevant authorities of designated communities and at venues and dates that will be duly communicated to the general public through future press releases and relevant posters.
“For the purpose of emphasis, the Nigerian Army does not and will never carry out its medical outreaches or vaccination exercises for that matter in Schools.
“We can therefore categorically inform the public that the ongoing rumours about Nigerian Army Personnel going round schools in military camouflage to forcefully immunize school children are not true and should therefore be discountenanced with.
“Additionally, members of the public are please requested to call 09072509436-8 to report any case of any impostor(s) that may be seen actually trying to commit such atrocities.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Oct.17, school activities were abruptly brought to an end in Akure and other major towns in Ondo State as the rumour of forced military vaccinations of school pupils by Monkeypox virus spread across the state.
Panicky parents were seen at late morning hours running in different directions to pick their children whom they earlier dropped off at their different schools as soon as the rumour began to spread.
Public schools were the most affected, as the students left the schools on their own before the schools’ management could take proper control of the situation, Premium times report.
However, the Ondo State Government quickly refuted the rumour in a statement stressing that there was no truth in it.
According to the Commissioner for Information, Yemi Olowolabi, there was no vaccination of pupils by the Army anywhere in the state. The statement reads:
“The attention of the Ondo State Government has been drawn to a rumour in circulation that a forced vaccination exercise is being conducted around schools in the State, with panicking parents withdrawing their wards from schools.
“The State Government wish to inform parents, students, teachers, school authorities and the general public that the rumour is baseless, unfounded and should be disregarded.
“Real-time investigation across the state has shown that none of such things exists in Ondo State.
“The State Government, therefore, advises the public, schools, students and teachers to go about their normal activities.
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“Should there be any strange occurrence, the appropriate quarters should be informed immediately.”