By Chris Ochayi
To avoid a repeat of what happened when suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked some health workers on polio immunization which led to the death of some of them in Kano State early this year, a northern group has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to put on hold the planned visit of polio eradication advocate, Bill Gates, to Nigeria.
The group, Arewa Coalition for Save The Child Initiative, in a petition to Jonathan, expressed fear that the intended publicity and fanfare that would be accorded the visit of Gates will endanger the lives of more polio workers in the North. Co-ordinator of the coalition, Mohammed Dahiru, argued in the petition that though, the planned visit was with good intention but the timing was wrong, and, therefore, asked Mr President to “cancel this visit because it may heighten tension and create fear amongst the administrators of the vaccines on children. “
“You would recall that in February this year ten health workers on polio immunization round were shot dead in Kano while three were killed in Borno State. The dreaded Boko Haram sect issued a statement claiming and justifying this irresponsible act”, Dahiru told the president. “Subsequently the exercise was suspended for one month. These reversed the drive, gains and successes recorded in previous years. It was a major setback. Besides, Boko Haram, in claiming responsibility for the attack on the revered Emir of Kano also cited, among other reasons, his support for immunization of children in his emirate. Thank Almighty Allah, the monarch survived.
“Thereafter, Borno and Yobe states have witnessed attacks on schools and the killing of children therein, highway ambush and massive killings, isolated but deadly attacks on villages and boarder settlements. There are volumes of cases though the security forces have tried to contain and repel some.
“All these have ripple effects on immunization and the eradication of polio in the country.
The emerging scenario now calls for a change of tactics. And this is where we differ on the planned visit of Bill Gates to Nigeria.
“We acknowledge the enormous contributions of Bill Gates to the eradication of polio and other diseases in Nigeria but we his planned visit on a polio mission with its attendant publicity and hype may negate the gains achieved through unpublicised approach than fanfare and drum-beat.”