President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that his administration would leverage on the gains of wild polio eradication in Nigeria and by extension in Africa to bequeath a quality healthcare system for the country and her citizens.
He explained that the feat recorded against polio in the African continent remains a pointer to power unity and determination, adding that such energy can be channeled towards investing in the continent’s health sector in reducing medical tourism by Nigerians and other Africans to the barest minimum.
The President expressed optimism that African countries can defeat the coronavirus pandemic, in the same manner, it eradicated the wild poliovirus on the continent, adding that collective resolve and adherence to safety measures were needed tools in the fight against the virus.
Speaking at the formal certification of the wild poliovirus eradication in the African region during the virtual session of the 70th World Health Organisation (WHO) regional committee for Africa, Buhari said the feat brought to fruition one of his electioneering campaigns promise.
‘‘I recall that shortly after assuming office in May 2015, I made a pledge to Nigerians that I would not bequeath a polio-endemic country to my successor. This certification is, therefore, a personal fulfillment of that pledge to not only Nigerians, but to all Africans.
‘‘At a time when the global community is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, this achievement strengthens my conviction that with the requisite political will, investments and strategies, as well as citizens’ commitment, we will flatten the epidemic curve.
‘‘I can affirm the commitment of all African leaders to this course of action,’’ a statement by his spokesperson, Femi Adesina, quoted the President as saying in his remarks celebrating the historic feat.
The President assured the global community that Nigeria will sustain the momentum and leverage on the lessons learnt from polio eradication to strengthen her health system, especially primary health care, and prioritize health security.
He said Nigeria used data systems, community engagement, and innovative technology to monitor and predict the occurrence of polio outbreaks, adding that these same skills and tools are being used to fight COVID-19 and the multi-country outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses.
The Nigerian leader also used the occasion to congratulate Dr. Matshidiso Moeti and the WHO Regional Committee for Africa on their untiring efforts, contributions, and leadership towards polio eradication in Africa.
‘‘We must guard this achievement of the eradication of wild poliovirus in Africa jealously and ensure that we take all necessary steps to prevent a resurgence of this dreaded disease.
‘‘This will require maintaining the highest quality of surveillance and sustaining population immunity through increasing routine immunization coverage and supplemental immunization activities.
‘‘It is heartwarming to note how the strong partnership between the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and Governments of African countries worked tirelessly and collaboratively to deliver this success,’’ he said.