President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday signed a renewed commitment to completely eradicate polio in Nigeria within the next two years.
The President signed the Updated Abuja Commitment in company of Co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, and Alhaji Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group, and it is aimed at continuing oversight activities that will ensure that the scourge, which has already been eradicated, does not reoccur as a new case until the end of 2017.
Buhari noted in his speech that even though not all states lived up to their commitments in the previously signed pacts, he will ensure that they all perform at the same level before the end 2017. He also said the de-listing of Nigeria from the list of countries where polio is endemic is an enormous achievement.
The President said: “I would like to assure you that the Federal Government will continue to provide strong oversight and funding for polio programme.
“To this effect, we will reconstitute an expanded Presidential Task Force on Polio, which will include the 36 state governors, to sustain the successes of our current polio eradication activities such as surveillance and routine immunisation programmes.
“I am pleased to inform you that the six states mostly impacted by polio have signed an MoU on routine immunisation.
“This MOU is a commitment by the state governments, namely Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Sokoto and Yobe, to strengthen primary health care system through community sensitisation and support programmes.”
In his reaction, Gates praised Nigeria for doing her best to end polio, adding that there has been noticeable improvement since his first visit in 2009. He also said he would like to see all states perform at the same level.
“We should not lose focus on the goal,” he said. “We need to keep polio in the front burner so that Nigeria can be certified polio free. You have fought the disease for over for two decades, you can achieve it.”
Gates added that he hopes the latest agreement will live up to its task of ensuring that polio issues remained on the front burner for the next two years. Once this is achieved, Gates said, “I will be back to celebrate with the total eradication with you.”
The first Abuja Commitment was signed in 2009 under the administration of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua and renewed in 2011 under the administration of President Goodluck E. Jonathan.
The Updated Abuja Commitment will ensure that governors lead local government chairmen as well as religious and traditional leaders in their respective states respond to the task of completely eradicating polio.
The signing ceremony had in attendance Governors from Oyo, Nasarawa, Kano, Delta, Ebonyi and Zamfara States.