President Muhammadu Buhari has been conferred with the prestigious polio champion award.

The award was conferred on the Nigerian president in recognition of his uncommon commitment and leadership in the polio eradication programme in Nigeria.

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada is the last recipient of the award. Other past recipients include Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.

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.

President Buhari was presented with the award on Thursday, November 15, 2018 at State House, Abuja, by Barry Rassin, Rotary International President, who was on a four-day official visit to Nigeria.

While receiving the award, President Buhari appreciated the commitment of the Rotary Club to humanitarian work across the globe.

The president was quoted to have said that:

“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, Rassin, while commending the President for providing significant leadership in the efforts to eradicate polio in Nigeria, 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”.

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