President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the Federal government will continue to provide strong oversight and funding for the polio program in the country.
The president added that his government will reconstitute an expanded Presidential Taskforce on Polio which will include the 36 states’ Governors to sustain the successes of current polio eradication activities such as surveillance and routine immunization programs.
He was speaking in the Presidential Villa at the signing of the Updated Abuja Commitment on Polio Eradication in Nigeria.
The Nigerian leader said the issue of polio eradication in Nigeria has been a matter he, and his predecessors, have given the highest priority.
“I am pleased to welcome you all to this meeting on a matter that is very important to all of us. The issue of polio eradication in Nigeria has been a matter I, and my predecessors, have given the highest priority. It is this continuous prioritization that has gotten us, as a nation, to where we are today. The successful de-listing of Nigeria as a polio endemic country is an enormous achievement for our country that should not be understated. It clearly shows that through sheer commitment, hard work and having the right partnerships, we can succeed.”
The president singled out some individuals and organizations that have been with Nigeria in the fight against the crippling disease.
“I am very encouraged by the progress we are making on the immunization front. This gives me comfort that we are on the right track to ensure our children and grand children will never know of polio and its adverse impacts on lives and livelihood. Here, I will commend and thank all our partners, including both Mr. Gates and Alhaji Dangote for their personal commitments to this worthy cause. Of course, I also recognize the heroics of our polio eradication team under the National Primary Health Care Development Agency of the Federal Ministry of Health as well as the WHO, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CDC, USAID, Rotary, Faith based organizations, Traditional Rulers, vaccinators and caregivers”.
Next two years
On his part, Mr Bill Gates who remains key to the fight against the disease through the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, called on Nigerians to take the fight against the disease seriously so as to be free in the next two years.
“In 2009, the governors committed themselves to the Abuja Commitment and that was key turning point for the fight against polio in this country. It sent a clear message that governors will hold themselves and Local government chairmen accountable for the job done in which tremendous support is received from traditional institutions, religious leaders and partners. This has happened, polio circulation has stopped but the job is not finished the worst we can do is to lose focus”, he appealed.
And since the intention is to eradicate polio completely in the next two years from Nigeria, Mr. Gates said “many governors are doing the needful job but all governors need to achieve the same level of commitment so that Nigeria can be certified polio free less than two years from now. You have fought polio for more than two decades you are this close. I have every confidence you will do it and I will certainly be here to celebrate with you when the country is declared polio free”, he ended.
Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote himself a Nigeria also made an assurance that “we all need to honour this commitment right from the federal to state to local government, traditional rulers to achieve polio free Nigeria. Once we get through to the next two years to become polio free then the whole Africa is free from polio because we are actually the one left. May the Almighty God help us to achieve this polio free status in the next two years.”
The Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara state, made a pledge on behalf of the 36 governors to fight the disease until it is eradicated
“We have two years to go. I will therefore call on my colleagues to reiterate our commitment to ensuring that we show commitment now until when Nigeria is pronounced as polio free by 2017. What is left is for us cannot be difficult for us. We remain committed to eradicate polio and we will continue routine immunization and take it from the Primary Healthcare services across the 36 states of the federation”, he said.
The Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa also gave his commitment to the fight against this polio as he promised that “we cannot afford to renege. I believe that all governors are committed as our Chairman has said and we are definitely going home to continue with the good job we have been doing in the past”.
The Minister of Health, Dr Isaac Adewale expressed happiness that that “the good thing about polio is that we have not recorded a single case since last year and with what we have put in place and what we have signed today, we will guarantee availability of vaccines. There will be no out of stock and we are sure that less than two years, this country will be polio free”.
The Word Health Organization had last year, given Nigeria a provisional certification as a polio free nation but has to observe the country for two years to ensure it is free from the disease totally.
If the country passes this test, it will no longer be listed among the countries with polio cases.