Nigeria’s Polio-free Status Excites Buhari

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•Dedicates new position to Nigerians, partners

By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Martins Ifijeh

President Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend congratulated Nigerians and thanked all local and international partners on the historic declaration of Nigeria as free of wild polio virus.
Buhari who said their relentless efforts earned Nigeria that feat, described the achievement as the output of the resilient spirit of Nigerians.

The WHO had last Thursday accepted Nigeria’s documentation of wild polio virus-free status, which implies the country is no longer among countries with the virus.

According to a statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, the president hinged the development on the capacity of hardworking men and women in the health industry whom he said mobilised resources and support from multiple sectors to crush the virus.

“This achievement is not only one of the great successes of this generation of Nigerians but also one of the obvious dividends of this administration, which is consistent with our progressive investment in the health of our people since 2015.

“This landmark achievement is also a promise kept to all Nigerians. As you will recall that in August 2015, barely three months after we assumed office, I promised Nigerians that: ‘My government shall provide the necessary resources and commitment required to strengthen the health system, routine immunisation and ensure the country is certified polio free.’’

He recalled that in 2016, the country suffered a major setback in the polio eradication efforts with the outbreak of the wild polio virus in Borno State, after about two years without any case.

He said he had directed the immediate release of N9.8 billion to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to contain the outbreak.

“Subsequently, we have been meeting all our financial obligations to bilateral and multilateral agreements, and also provided the moral support and leadership required at all levels to motivate the men and women in the frontline of polio eradication. In addition, we sincerely appreciate our donors and development partners who stood by the country during those trying times.

“This achievement of polio-free status is a hard-won battle spanning over three decades of hard work and dedication by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the federal, states and local governments, polio eradication team at all levels, our donors and development partners, both local and international.

“As we recall, the polio eradication structures were used when Nigeria successfully eradicated Ebola virus disease within the shortest possible time in 2014. I am glad that these same human, material and technological resources have been deployed to steadily increase routine immunisation coverage and are being organised to implement the fight against community transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This big battle would not have been won without the support of our donors and development partners, including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Rotary International, United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, USAID, Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), European Union, Global Health Canada, German Development Bank (KfW), WHO, UNICEF, Nigeria Governor’s Forum, Polio Survivors Group, the media, faith-based and other non-governmental organisations.’’

The president also acknowledged the contributions of traditional and religious leaders who mobilised communities to accept immunisation and other government programmes.

“The final theatre of the polio eradication fight was particularly championed by the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Polio Eradication and Primary Health Care (NTLC) under the guidance of His Highness, Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Saad Abubakar, and strategic leadership of the late Shehu of Bama, Alhaji Kyari Ibn Umar El-Kanemi.

“We thank you all for the leadership and partnership over the years,” the president said.