President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday restated his commitment to ensuring that the World Health Organisation finally certifies Nigeria as a polio-free country by 2017.
He has therefore called on all Nigerians to join hands with the Federal Government to achieve the objective.
A statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, quoted the President as speaking at separate meetings with governors of polio-vulnerable states and members of the High-Level Advocacy Group at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari’s position at the meeting was that, to become permanently polio-free, Nigeria must build on its achievement of being polio-free for 12 months which was marked in July.
He said 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 actualising 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 immunisation coverage and provide the needed human and material resources.”
Buhari urged the governors to diligently supervise the polio eradication programme in their states and join the Federal Government in ensuring that the required resources were provided and efficiently utilised 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 immunisation.
“We also need to interface regularly with our LGA chairmen to ensure that there is no complacency.
“We must make Nigeria Polio free in 2017. We must put all our efforts to achieve this milestone for the sake of our children, future generations and the over-all health and well being of the nation,” he told them.
The President also assured the governors and advocacy group members that his administration would continue to give the required leadership towards Nigeria’s final certification as being polio-free through the Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.
The representative of WHO in Nigeria, Dr. Rui Gaz, praised 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 areas of the world.