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Flashback: The Journey Towards Eradicating Polio in Nigeria

It seems like it was just yesterday when as Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), I chaired an extraordinary session of the Forum which was also attended by @billgates, head of @gatesfoundation to lay out a new framework for the eradication of all strains of the Wild Polio Virus from Nigeria. At the time, Nigeria accounted for more than 50% of the global cases of polio. #ThowbackThursday

That 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, and improve immunization campaigns, and chairing quarterly meetings with LGA chairmen to closely review the planning, implementation and results of polio eradication activities.

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 during a breakfast meeting in 2011.

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.

I commend the NGF 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.

I also commend our development partners, especially the @gatesfoundation, for the roles they have played in achieving this polio free status. I recall that in 2018, as President of the 8th Senate, I met with the Country Director of the Foundation, Dr. Paulin Basinga, to discuss the progress made against the disease.

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.

This thinking was what motivated the National Assembly under my leadership to set aside 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) 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.