President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday pledged that his administration will do all within its power to eradicate Wild Polio Virus in Nigeria by 2014, saying that he will not hand over a polio-free country to the incoming government come 2015.
The president, who made this known yesterday at an award ceremony for best performing state governors from the six geopolitical zones on the eradication of polio, also urged political leaders not to lose focus on the fight against polio because of campaign for the next elections.
President Jonathan singled out for commendation, Bill Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, for his efforts in eradicating polio on the African continent and announced the conferment of the award of the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) on the world’s richest man as a show of appreciation from the government and people of Nigeria.
“Apart from helping us in fight against Polio and provision of life saving commodities, Bill Gates is also assisting us in agriculture” Mr. Jonathan said adding that, “like [Aliko] Dangote mentioned, there is no reason we should not eradicate polio by 2014.
“Let me assure you that the federal government is totally committed to eradicating polio. We promise that we will work hard because we don’t want to handover polio to another government in 2015.
“With the support of all stakeholders present here I believe we will succeed in our commitment to eradicate polio.
“I charge you all to be so committed especially as the elections are coming. In fact from the analysis I was just briefed now I’m really surprised that in 2011 there was lapse and it was attributed to the elections, that during campaigns for elections we the politicians think more about winning the elections and forget about other things. I charge you all that we must work together to make sure that the 2014/2015 will not create any kind of gap in our commitment to eradicate polio.
“In our local government and states that have suffered polio, it should be part of our campaign, it should rather be part of our campaign instead of our election to create a problem, our elections should enhance our commitment.
“We should all feel ashamed that we are being accused of exporting polio to neighbouring countries” the president lamented.
He also hailed the role of traditional rulers in helping government meet its target of immunizing Children against Polio
To recipients of awards, the president charged them not to rest on their oars but to ensure that more is done to justify their awards.
In his speech, the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu said as at 2012, the entire northern region was being infected by reported cases of Wild Polio but as at now only three states; Kano, Borno and Yobe are giving serious cause for concern.
He said since November last year there has been no reported cases of transmission of the Type A polio virus adding that “we have have reduced it by 50 per cent though we have recently had 51 cases in Borno, Kano, Yobe and Bauchi states”.
He listed the challenges facing the fight against polio as non-accessibility to children due to insecurity and accountability which necessitated the involvement of Local Government chairmen.
He said in order to overcome the security challenge in Borno state “we have formed permanent health team, the hit and run strategy during the period of calm to reach children with successive doses over one to two days bursts; Intensified routine immunization with free MNCH services and essentials drugs; Fire walling Borno/Yobe borders with health teams and health camps at borders, checkpoints and nomadic camps in all LGAs”.
Prof. Chukwu pleaded with the President to direct rapid information sharing between JTF and the programme on accessibility/security in security-compromised areas.
Governors that won awards on the night include Captain Idris Wada of Kogi for North Central; Dr Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo state for the south West; Kashim Shettima of Borno for North East; Liyel Imoke for south south; and Peter Obi of Anambra for south East.