Former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Thursday expressed delight over the recent declaration of zero-polio cases amongst the African population, intimating that he had worked alongside other leaders to bring about this development.
“I am really chuffed at the declaration of the African continent as polio free. While there were set backs along the journey, we stayed committed to achieving this objective”, Saraki said in a social media statement, commending the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and “successive Chairmen for consolidating on the gains we made in 2010/11. I believe this achievement is a testament to the objective of the Forum – the identification of share goals and the establishment of frameworks to achieve those goals”.
Saraki said this as he recalled his tenure as Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), I reminiscing on chairing a particular session which he described as ‘extraordinary’, also attended by Bill Gates, to lay out a new framework for the eradication of the Polio Virus.
“At the time, Nigeria accounted for more than 50% of the global cases of polio”.
The former Senate President said the session led to what is known as the “Abuja Commitment” – which had the Governors of the 36 states pledge to provide active leadership of polio eradication activities, including routine immunization, and ensuring that all children under 5 are reached and vaccinated;
The allocation of additional financial and human resources to sustain primary healthcare and routine immunization; improvement of immunization campaigns, and chairing quarterly meetings with LGA chairmen to review the planning and implementation of polio eradication activities.
Saraki said by 2011, reported incidents of the polio virus had dropped by 95% following the implementation of the Abuja Commitment.
“This much was attested to by the then United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, during a breakfast meeting in 2011”, he enthused.
Saraki however noted that Nigeria faces a need to concentrate on primary healthcare rather than ending up tackling avoidable situations.
“Today, I reiterate a call I made during that meeting – that Nigeria needs to stop the approach of targeting certain diseases through intervention programmes and address the root of the issue – primary healthcare”, he said.
He Fu revealed this thinking had motivated the National Assembly under his leadership to set aside 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to boost primary health care in 2018.
“I appeal to the 9th Assembly to continue this allocation to place Nigeria on a sustainable path towards improving our healthcare system”, Saraki said.