President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday restated his resolve to ensure that Nigeria is finally certified polio-free by 2017, saying all Nigerians must join hands with the federal government to achieve this.
Buhari said this at separate meetings with governors of polio-vulnerable states and members of the High-Level Advocacy Group.
The president noted that for the country to become polio-free permanently, it must build on its achievement of being polio-free for 12 months, which was marked in July.
Senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as saying he had initiated the meetings with the governors and Advocacy Group members because the country could not afford a reversal of what had been achieved after 17 years of the polio eradication programme in Nigeria.
The president said: “I want to reaffirm the commitment of the federal government to sustain the gains and momentum to enable Nigeria achieve certification by 2017.
“I am, therefore, inviting you to join me in actualizing this pledge as experts have cautioned that the progress we have made in the polio eradication efforts is still very fragile and that there is the risk of gains reversal if we don’t sustain this great effort and allow complacency to set in.
“As you are aware, the fact that we have not had any case of polio for over a year now does not mean that we are polio-free; it is just one of the milestones on the path to being polio-free.
“I understand that for Nigeria to be certified polio-free, we have to sustain this zero polio case status, strengthen surveillance in order to detect quickly any case of polio anywhere in the country, improve routine immunization coverage and provide the needed human and material resources.”
Urging the governors to diligently supervise the polio eradication programme in their states,
Buhari asked them to join the federal government in ensuring that the required resources are provided and efficiently utilized to achieve the desired result.
“Between now and 2017, we must ensure that we continue to build confidence in our people to present their children and wards for immunization. We also need to interface regularly with our LGA chairmen to ensure that there is no complacency,” he said.
“We must make Nigeria polio-free in 2017. We must put in all our efforts to achieve this milestone for the sake of our children, future generations and the over-all health and wellbeing of the nation.”
The president further promised the governors and advocacy group members that his administration will continue to give the required leadership towards Nigeria’s final polio-free certification through the Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.
The representative of the World Health Organization in Nigeria, Dr. Rui Gam Gaz, applauded the strong political support for the eradication of polio in the country.
He told the president that lessons learnt from Nigeria would be used in the search for ways to end polio in other parts of the world.