School activities were abruptly brought to an end in Akure and other major towns in Ondo State on Tuesday as the rumour of forced military vaccinations of school pupils by Monkeypox virus spread across the state.
At about 11a.m., panicky parents were seen running in different directions to pick their children they had earlier dropped off at their different schools as soon as the rumour began to spread.
Most of the 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.
At Fabian Group of Schools, located at Esure, in Akure, parents came in their numbers to besiege the school, urging the school to shut its gates against the invading vaccinators.
Appeals by the principal, Peter Huno, that it was a mere rumour that should be discarded fell on deaf ears.
As soon as they realised that the principal would not do their instruction, they started taking the children home.
The school was forced to call an emergency assembly where they agreed to close down the school at 1p.m. as against the usual closing time.
At the Police Children School, the management would not allow parents to take their children, even though parents were not convinced that the school could handle the situation.
Reacting to the development, the Ondo State Government said there was no truth in the rumour making the rounds in the state.
A statement by the Commissioner for Information, Yemi Olowolabi, stated that there was nowhere vaccination of pupils by the army took place in the state.
“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 statement noted.
“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 exist in Ondo State.
“The State Government therefore advises the public, schools, students and teachers to go about their normal activities.
“Should there be any strange occurrence, the appropriate quarters should be informed immediately.”
The rumour began last in some states of the south east 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 states, where parents also made haste to go to the schools to withdraw their children.
The government of Enugu State and the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army have both condemned the rumour, describing it as mischievous.
A statement by Sagir Musa, who is the Deputy Director Army Public Relations, denied that the army’s medical outreach in the south east had any sinister motive.
“The attention of the 82 Division Nigerian Army (NA), has been drawn to a silly and mischievous publication now trending on the social media alleging that the ongoing free medical services giving to some communities in the South Eastern Region of Nigeria is with a sinister motive of depopulating the region through the so called “monkey pox vaccination” purportedly being conducted by the NA in the region,” the army statement read.
“The Division wishes to make it clear that the free medical outreach is not a vaccine intended to infect monkey pox or any major contemporary or emerging diseases in Nigeria to the people of South East or any part of the country.
“The exercise is part of the corporate social responsibility initiatives imbued in to the overall Exercise EGWU EKE 11 package, to the people of the South Eastern Region which is the Area of Responsibility of the 82 Division NA and is also the theatre of the Exercise.
“Instructively, the free medical services in the region started on the 18th of September 2017 in Nkwaagu community of Abakaliki Local Government Area (LGA) of Ebonyi State. At the event, the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, the Chairman of the LGA and some traditional rulers of the benefiting community were there at the flagg off of the exercise by the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General TY Buratai.
“Other areas where the programme was conducted were Ovim in Isoukwato LGA of Abia State, Mbaise in Imo State, ORJI River in Enugu and now Ozubulo in Anambra State.
“In all the mentioned areas, there has not been any recorded incident or complain of any kind arising from the noble humanitarian gesture of the NA.
“Hence, the wicked, ill motivated rumour/ lies is the handiwork of unpatriotic elements who can go to any length to discredit the noble services of the NA in the region, which at the moment they will not succeed.”