President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday reiterated that the federal government was committed to eradicating of polio from country before the end of his tenure in 2015.
The president’s assurance came on a day the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, warned that criminals were working to scuttle the battle against childhood killer diseases like measles and wild polio.
Speaking when he received a delegation of Rotary International led by the Chairman of the Rotary Foundation Trustees, Mr. Wilfrid Wilkinson, at the Presidential Villa, President Jonathan said the Federal Government would take necessary action, including working in close collaboration with its development partners and other stakeholders to overcome the challenges hindering mass immunisation against polio in parts of the country.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, President Jonathan said his administration was actively encouraging pro-polio immunisation advocacy by respected religious leaders and traditional rulers as part of a multi-faceted strategy to ensure the success of the nationwide campaign.
“I promise you that we will continue to do our best because I do not want to hand over polio to the next administration,” President Jonathan told the delegation, which also included the first African President of Rotary International, Chief Jonathan Majiyagbe.
The leader of the delegation, Wilkinson's assured President Jonathan that Rotary International would continue to commit resources and personnel in support of the Federal Government’s efforts to eradicate polio from Nigeria.
Also, President Jonathan had earlier received a Mexican Government delegation which was at the Presidential Villa to seek Nigeria’s support for Mexico’s candidate for the post of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Welcoming the delegation, President Jonathan noted that the WTO had a very important role to play in global trade and economic development.
Meanwhile, Chukwu spoke at the exchange of notes between the government of Japan and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the signing of an agreement between Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and UNICEF at the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja.
The exchange of notes and agreement were in respect of this year's donation of N443 million ($2.8m) by Japan through UNICEF for the prevention of infectious diseases in children and child survival programmes in Nigeria.
He assured Nigerians that the Federal Government would leave no stone unturned to attain its target of eradicating the wild polio virus from Nigeria by December.
The minister maintained that no criminal could stop the government in its march to halt child-killer diseases and drastically reduce infant and maternal mortality.
While noting that some media outfits had allowed themselves to be used in the acts of criminals that are out to frustrate the government's drive, Chukwu said the appropriate government agencies would not hesitate to deal with such erring media organisations.
UNICEF's Deputy Representative and Officer in Charge of its Nigeria office, Mr. Jacques Boyer, signed for the global children’s organisation while Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ryuichi Shoji, represented his country whose cumulative donation to Nigeria for this cause since 2000 he put at N14 billion.
The minister stated that: “We are serious about the prevention of the killer diseases. I hope that by December, there will be zero polio in Nigeria.”
Chukwu said: “The killing of our people who go out for immunisation won't stop us. Criminals cannot stop the progress. We won't allow enemies of humanity to disrupt our efforts.”
He said President Goodluck Jonathan had doubled the government’s financial contribution to the fight against polio and was set to release the money earmarked to combat the disease through immunisation.
He added: “The issue is not that of availability of vaccines; it is not the availability of cold chain; it is the issue of people telling other people not to take the immunisation. Unfortunately, the media are also culpable. If they are not going to be partners in progress, the appropriate government agency that gave them licence will look into it.”