…says it spent $270m to end polio in Nigeria
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari was Thursday conferred with the prestigious Polio Champion Award in recognition of his commitment and leadership in the polio eradication programme in Nigeria.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, in a statement in Abuja said that the award was presented to the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, by Rotary International President, Mr. Barry Rassin, who was on a four-day official visit to Nigeria.
According to the statement, the Polio Champion Award was instituted by Rotary International in 1995 to recognize and appreciate Heads of Governments and organisations that have played a key role in polio eradication around the world.
The last recipient of the Award it stated was Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, while the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon were among other recipients of the award.
President Buhari, while receiving the award, thanked Rotary International for the honour and lauded their commitment to humanitarian work across the globe.
He said, ‘‘Rotary International is well known to my generation. Your work is really humanitarian; no amount of materialism can pay you for what you have been doing and we thank you very much.
‘‘I am pleased with the efforts of Rotary International, you are champions of the weak, and I pray that God will abundantly pay you for your humanitarian services. I am also pleased that I have a competent Health Minister, who supervises the work.”
Earlier in his remarks, Mr Rassin, who commended the Nigeria President for providing significant leadership in the efforts to eradicate polio in the country, advocated for increased political and financial commitments at all levels for routine immunization and primary health care strengthening.
He also commended President Buhari for his commitment to Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) by expanding the presidential task force on polio to include state governors shortly after he took office in 2015.
‘‘You are an inspiration to your country’’, the Rotary president, who was accompanied by his wife, Esther, and other senior Rotarians in Nigeria, told President Buhari.
He said Rotary has contributed $1.7 billion to the global effort to eradicate polio, of which
$270m was expended in Nigeria.
‘‘We have come a long way from 1985 when polio was crippling 350,000 children annually in 125 countries of the world to 27 cases in two countries. But even one child paralysed by polio is one child too many. We need to end polio now,’’ Rassin said, adding that Nigeria has not recorded any case of polio in the last 27 months, nine months away from ‘‘possible certification of eradication.’’