How NPI "saves" the lives of Nigerian children: Book by Idris Mohammed


This is my final blog on Professor Idris Mohammed’s recently published book: “Academics, Epidemics and Politics”….and eventful career in public health”

I still recommend that you buy the book. Buy the book, read the book.

Among the several important roles Dr Mohammed has held in Public Health in Nigeria is Chairman of the Board of the National Programme on Immunisation.

This was during the tenure of Dere Awosika as Chief Executive. It is public knowledge that there was no love lost between the two during their time at NPI, it is also public knowledge that on their watch, by self admission on page 219 of his book, routine vaccination coverage for EPI diseases in Nigeria went down to an all time low of 13% and Nigeria experienced an outbreak of polio that might yet have compromised the polio eradication programme for good.

….to the book…

To open the chapter on his tenure at NPI, Professor Mohammed quotes from a document of the UK Department for International Development published in 1991…thus…

“…the chances of rehabilitating the routine immunisation programme in the short term are zero. The resurrection of a service is technically feasible but requires re-education, management training and repair of the system in which immunisation must function…”

Again…I make no conclusions from Professor Mohammed’s assertions…but believe that Nigerians need to be aware of these incidents and allegations to understand why their children still die from a disease like measles for which a vaccine has been available for 40 years and which costs less than a bottle of coca cola.

On the management of NPI:

“…There was no management structure and the agency was run by one individual…there was practically no middle management staff (…) those employed included a handful of doctors and pharmacists who were afraid to proffer advice. No one had a schedule of duty and the programme was rub on a day-to-day basis…(…) The Chief executive dealth directly with minister of health and office of the first lady”

On the finances of NPI:

“…The President released the equivalent of nearly USD500 million at NPI over 7 years (…) in addition to the undisclosed millions donated directly to NPI by donour agencies every year…”

On one specific incident:

In 2003, the British Medical Journal as well as other press outlets reported that National Programme for Immunisation distributed expired anti typhoid vaccine, Vivotif Berna, in some parts of the country.

Professor Mohammed responded by saying “The attention of the National Programme on Immunization has been drawn to this serious allegation, and an urgent investigation is underway to determine how this happened. The Programme will respond more fully at the end of this investigation”…this is what he said he found:

“…I obtained solid evidence that NPI had purchased the soon-to-expire VIVOTIF typhoid vaccine (…) at a stagerring cost of USD 36,572,002.50. The routine use of the vaccine is not recommended by WHO in Africa and is not among those NPI is statutorily required to procure (…) the vaccine was procured without due process, the whole process from negotiation to procurement took one week… “

On this sober note…I leave you as you walk sadly to the bookshops to buy the book.

Read it and show it to your children when they grow up. They need to understand how their country got to the state it is in.


…it I published by Bookcraft ( Contacts of the publishers are,

23 Adebajo Street, Kongi Layout. Ibadan, NIGERIA.+234 2 8103238; +234 2 7517153, +234 803 3447889; +234 8037220773

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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