Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, yesterday, called for proper attention and care for senior citizens in the country.
Gowon made the call in Abuja during the national conference on ageing, care-giving, rights and privileges of older persons in Nigeria organised by the Coalition of Societies for the Rights of Older Persons in Nigeria (COSROPIN).
Gowon said issues of poor health management, delayed pension payment and inadequate housing, were reminder of the plight of older citizens and the urgent need to redress them.
He said the birth of COSROPIN was a right step towards meeting some of the challenges faced by older citizens.
Gowon expressed confidence that over time, the platform will help to entrench and sustain the wellbeing of older persons in Nigeria.
He further said it was gratifying that membership of the coalition cut across various associations such as civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations and all working with ageing and retired senior citizens groups.
Gowon added that prior to building the coalition, no individual group, working on its own steam, succeeded in producing the kind of synergy needed to get government and other stakeholders to do anything about the structural marginalisation, neglect and exclusion of ageing and older persons from national development plans and initiatives.
“People easily forget that not all retired men and women are tired. The young people in service also act as though they will not grow old. We need to rethink how we treat our senior citizens,” Gowon said.
While noting that the coalition was at the forefront of efforts to create a legal framework to backup its advocacy for the care of the elderly, Gowon added that all hands must be on deck to ensure the passage of the bill seeking to guarantee the wellbeing of the elderly.
Gowon expressed delight that COSROPIN is working at encouraging and sensitizing political parties to include older persons’ welfare and wellbeing in their programmes.
He commended the coalition for coming together to give birth to COSROPIN, as well as the support of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development which ultimately is aimed at achieving the lofty goal of eradicating abuse, neglect and disrespect for elderly persons.
In his remarks, the President of COSROPIN, Senator Eze Ajoku, said a nation that abandon its elderly citizens who have contributed in diverse ways to the development of their communities and the country, is sure to be compromised by mounting social and moral decadence.
Ajoku further said without social security and safety nets, the elderly citizens have become objects of ridicule.
“In Nigeria today, there are diverse elderly persons in different living conditions, most of which are deplorable and almost sub-human. They lack access to basic necessities to accommodate them in their vulnerable status,” Ajoku said.
Ajoku added that majority of the elderly citizens lack access to health support systems, medicare, proper nutrition, accommodation, financial and social protection rights, including vocational engagements.
He also said in Nigeria, elderly citizens are at a crossroad regarding the place of the older persons in nation building and dynamic, even as he said that there is a huge gulf that needed to be urgently bridged to install confidence in elderly citizens.