President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that he will not tolerate any gap that might prevent Nigeria being certified polio-free by World Health Organisation (WHO) by the year 2017.
He has, therefore, ordered the relevant agencies in the country to increase tempo of the fight against the polio virus nationwide.
He gave the directive at the Council Chamber of the State House, Abuja while receiving polio high level advocacy team.
The Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Linus Awute, told State House correspondents at the end of the closed-door meeting: “The President directed us to sustain the tempo that has led us thus far after 17 years and how to do that is clearly developed in the template upon which we are going to work in collaboration with the state governors.
“As it is now there is no polio in our country but then we still need to monitor that throughout a period of two years.
“That is why we need to intensify routine immunisation, ensuring that there is no leakage, no gap until 2017 when we shall be certified a polio free country having arrested the transmission for upward of one year plus”.
Awute said there is need to interface and make further pronouncements that would boost the gains so far recorded in polio eradication in the country.
“In doing that, the stakeholders are required and that is why a strong advocacy group, a high level advocacy group that happens to be the pillar and foundation of this tremendous efforts was led down here to interface with President.
“We also needed that one to happen at the instance of the governors of the 11 states where polio before now was endemic.
“So the gains of it is that we have a consensus on what we must or must not do to be able to cherish the gains that we have made”, he said.
Katsina State Governor, Bello Masari, told reporters that all the governors have given President Buhari their commitments to support eradication of polio and other communicable diseases.
According to him, religious barriers and other factors that used to hinder the progress of the immunization programme have been removed.
“The problem came from some religious misconception, misunderstanding of the polio and now we are very lucky entirely the Ulamas, the religious leaders have accepted the fact that this is a preventable disease and curative.
“So really I think we don’t have those trailblazer and religious encumbrances that hindered the progress of the immunization programme before and there is commitment on the part of religious leaders and traditional leaders, community leaders that really accounted for what you have seen that the last reported cases of immunization in this country is over 13 months, in some states over 33 months,” he said
Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, on his part, said that Bauchi has recorded 24 months of non-prevalence and 34 months for the vaccine-induced polio.
“Mr. President has taken charge of the fight towards eradication of polio and he has invited the states that are considered as vulnerable so that he would solicit our buying-in to this renewed eradication of polio,” he added.
WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Rui Gama Vaz, applauded Buhari’s commitment to eradicate polio from Nigeria by 2017.
“He has requested the executive governors to ensure they take the lead. He emphasized on the importance of bottom-top approach, starting from the ward level up to the federal level.
“He also highlighted the importance to use the polio to strengthen all health systems in the country,” he said.