President Muhammadu Buhari said, yesterday, Nigeria would save about N687 billion in 2022 and N2 trillion by 2030 by ending malaria transmission in the country.

He made the projection during the inauguration of Nigeria End Malaria Council, NEMC, at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The president told the 16-member council, headed by the founder and president of Dangote Group,  Aliko Dangote, that beyond improving the quality of life, health and well-being of Nigerians, the concerted strategy to tackle malaria had both public health as well as socio-economic benefits for Nigeria.

Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said: “Our inauguration today will, therefore, ensure that malaria elimination remains a priority on our agenda, with strong political commitment from leaders at all levels.

“Additionally, the End Malaria Council will provide a platform to advocate more funding to protect and sustain progress made so far by our country, and put us on a pathway to ending malaria for good.”

Expressing concern that the age-long disease had remained a major public health challenge in Nigeria, the President cited the World Health Organisation, WHO, report of 2021, showing that Nigeria alone accounts for 27 per cent of all cases of malaria and 32 per cent of deaths globally.

He said: “Malaria infection can cause severe disease and complication in pregnant women and lead to high rates of miscarriage.

“It is also responsible for a considerable proportion of deaths in infants and young children, with children under 5 years being the most vulnerable group affected. These are reasons we must not relent in fighting malaria.”

On choice of Dangote to chair the council

On his choice of Dangote to chair the council, Buhari explained that it was in recognition of the track record and passion of Africa’s richest man in supporting initiatives on health issues, such as polio and primary health care system strengthening.

The president expressed confidence that Dangote would bring his outstanding achievements to help the country achieve its goal of malaria elimination, adding that a group of eminent personalities who had also made their mark across all walks of life, had been selected to work in the Council.

He added that the membership of the council reflected government’s commitment to significantly reduce the malaria burden in Nigeria to a level where it was no longer a public health issue.

In separate remarks, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and Minister of State for Health, Dr. Joseph Nkama, said since 2010, Nigeria had been recording continuous decline in malaria from 42 per cent in 2010, 27 per cent in 2015 to 23 per cent in 2018.

Quoting figures from the 2010 Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey and the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, they attributed the decline to the thorough implementation of the National Malaria Strategic Plan, NMSP.

Both ministers, however, admitted that funding gap had impacted the implementation of the malaria programmes in Nigeria, adding that the country needed N1.89 trillion to reduce malaria prevalence and mortality by 2025.

In his acceptance speech, Dangote thanked the president and all members of the council for entrusting him with the enormous responsibility, pledging to work hard to achieve the mandate.

“I must confess that this resonates with my current role as the Nigerian Ambassador for Malaria, my role on the Global End Malaria Council and with the work that my Foundation is doing to mobilise the private sector to support malaria control in Nigeria and Africa at large,” he said.

The council members are Shehu Ibrahim, Permanent Secretary, Office of the Vice President on Political and Economic Affairs; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF); Sen. Yahaya Oloriegbe, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health; Abubakar Dahiru, Chairman, House Committee on AIDS, TB and Malaria; Dr Ehanire, Ekumankama, Mahmuda Mamman, Permanent Secretary, Federal Minister of Health.

Others include, Tony Elumelu, Chairman, Board of Directors, UBA, Folurunsho Alakija, CEO, Rose of Sharon Group, Herbert Wigwe, CEO, Access Bank, Femi Otedola, CEO Forte Oil, Hajiya Lami Lau, President, National Council of Women Societies, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Emertius Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Alhaja Rafiyat Sanni, National Amira, Federation of Muslim Women Nigeria (FOWAN) and Dr Perpetua Uhomoibhi, NEMC Secretariat/National Coordinator, National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP).