Efforts to eradicate polio in Nigeria is threatened by the killings of nine polio vaccinators in Kano and Korean health workers by suspected Boko Haram sect. This dastardly act raises a pertinent question as to what the sect is really up to
| By Ishaya Ibrahim | Feb. 25, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
ERADICATION of polio virus in the country is seriously under threat. The killing of nine female polio vaccinators in Kano, February 8, is regarded as a major setback for the programme.
The governors’ forum, at its meeting in January expressed worry over the rising incidents of polio in the country and decided to adopt a monthly immunisation campaign to stem the spread of the disease. But with nine polio vaccinators killed by suspected Boko Haram members in Kano, the northern part of the country is likely going to experience a shortage of polio vaccinators since they have now become Boko Haram targets of attack. Though the federal government said it would provide security to protect them, there is doubt whether such promise can really allay the fears of the vaccinators.
Although Boko Haram has neither accepted nor denied carrying out the deadly attack against the female vaccinators, the sect’s history of violence qualifies it as the main suspect. More so, this renewed campaign of terror against polio vaccinators in the north is particularly worrisome because it is the region where the polio virus is most prevalent.
Nigeria is ranked third after war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan in the prevalence of the disease and the northern part of the country is where the prevalence is ranked high. This is because there have been many conspiracy theories built around the vaccine with some persons alleging that it contains infertility substance which, if administered on a child, could make him or her sterile in adult life.
Few days before the attack on the polio vaccinators, two radio journalists with WAZOBIA FM, and an Islamic cleric in Kano, were said to have discussed the issue during a radio programme and in the process, advanced the idea that the vaccine contained an infertility substance. This was said to have incited the terrorists who prowled on the vaccinators, killing them while on duty.
The Kano State government has now dragged the journalists involved and the cleric before a magistrate’s court over inciting the killings because they discussed fears about the vaccination campaign in the programme. The journalists are Yakubu Musa Fagge and Mubarak Muhammad Sani while the cleric is Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim.
Apart from the female vaccinators that were killed on February 8, three North Korean doctors were also killed on February 10, in Potiskum, Yobe State. Security personnel found the corpses of the Koreans with the throats of two of them slit, while the other was beheaded. There has been no clear information on who the slain Koreans represent since their country is not known to have any bilateral agreement with Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Nigerians are still unsure of what the Boko Haram sect wants. The sect, which started its deadly campaign of terror in 2011, has been on the trail of security personnel, Christian worshippers, politicians, traditional rulers, expatriates and now health workers.
For Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins, the Boko Haram is one phenomenon that is difficult to understand. “On the one hand, it strikes Christian churches today, the next day, it strikes police posts, the third day it’s going to schools, the fourth day its market. That leaves everybody confused as to what is their anger. It gives one an impression of wanting to create chaos, wanting to create a state of anarchy and ensure that we all don’t have the peace that we deserve as a nation,” Martins said.
But this renewed insurgence by the sect is coming a few weeks after one Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez, a self-acclaimed ally of Abubakar Shekau, the sect’s spiritual leader, said the sect has agreed to a cease fire to pave way for dialogue. Although another acclaimed member of the group has disowned Ibn Abdulazeez’s offer of truce, Shekau himself has remained mute on the issue.