From Okwe Obi, Abuja
The director-general of the National Senior Citizens Centre (NSCC), Dr. Emem Omokaro, said that four in six older persons experience emotional, psychological and physical abuse by people who ought to take good care of them.
Also, president of Coalition for the Rights of Older Persons in Nigeria (COSROPIN), Senator Eze Ajoku, during the 2021 United Nations International Day for Older Persons, further lamented that the withdrawal of health insurance after retirement was another hiccup working against the ageing population.
“In Nigeria today, older persons have been excluded from a lot of things, excluded from developmental plans and initiatives, leading to the current state of older persons in Nigeria who have their health insurance withdrawn on retirement at 60 or have no health coverage.
“No social or economic security, there is elder abuse, stereotyping, abandonment, denial of rights, family exploitation, no legal backing for their rights and privileges. Indeed, the state of rural older persons are very pitiable and hopeless,” he said.
But the Federal Government, apart from corroborating the pangs of older persons, has resolved to put an end to their plights.
Government, through the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said government would cater for their needs through the establishment of community based prototype systems.
Umar Farouq said: “Ageing is one of the critical issues placed on the front burner of global discourse. 12.5% of the global population are 60 years and above.
“In Nigeria, ageing is a growing challenge against the background of accumulated socio-economic hardships, absolute high poverty, poor health facilities and lack of access to education over time.
“While taking steps to reduce poverty and ensure inclusiveness of most Nigerians, this administration has recognized the special needs of older persons as active agents of societal development.
“It is in this connection that the government made conscious efforts to establish the centre to develop and implement productive activities, social protection and work schemes for senior citizens in order to improve the quality of life of the elderly and ensure a sense of security and a general feeling of health and worthiness extended to them.”
Also, Omokaro announced plans to conduct a national census for older people across the country in order to ascertain their population and location with the intention of providing basic amenities for them.
“What we want to do is to organise a 5- year implementation plan. We want to work with the National Bureau of Statistics to conduct multi indicator survey on aging of older persons.
“All these years, older persons have been left out of any kind of national survey. So, we really do not have data on older persons.
“So, we want to ensure that we have a multi-survey on older persons then use that to build a data base. We want to know where our senior citizens are, their socioeconomic status in fact, everything about them,” she said.
Omokaro added that the establishment of the ministerial committee to consider the provision of health insurance for retirees and the elderly, anchored by the Federal Ministry of Health and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), will facilitate their wellbeing.
“Justice in the context of ageing legislations and policies, strategic plans, disaggregated data, regulatory framework, as well as budget processes and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, when sufficiently translated into citizens orientation, funded programmes and activities, are able to enhance capacities of older persons, providing support services for special needs population, including facilitating access to justice, she added.”
The pioneer executive, who recently visited Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State in Ado Ekiti, pointed out that her agency would fortify collaboration with the 36 states in order to equip and empower older persons.
We will ensure that key strategic actions are taken through multi-sectoral, sub-national partnerships and high level advocacy for fundamental positive perception of ageing and old age in Nigeria.
“This will be targeted on how poverty reduction, vulnerability mitigation, health and social services systems can accelerate inclusion and improve quality of life for senior citizens and the most vulnerable among them.
“Some of the steps will be building intergenerational synergies that will integrate youths for sustainability through co-education and partnerships within the context of senior citizens-NSCC innovative livelihood programs, public works schemes for income generation and education and volunteering programs within senior citizens centres.”
According to her, “National Senior Citizens Centre is offering partnerships with state governments on capacity building on ageing mainstreaming in relevant state ministries and agencies to enhance multi- sector collaborations within the states, mainstreaming geriatric assessment and social care in state primary health care systems and capacity building for community health workers and ensuring inclusion and participation of States representatives in the development of national certification and Regulatory framework for domiciliary social care agencies and care givers.”
Meanwhile, Fayemi, represented by his Deputy Governor, Bisi Egbeyemi, commended the Federal Government for setting up NSCC and noted that Ekiti State government would key into the partnership arrangements offered by the National Senior Citizens Centre.
While commending the Ekiti Council of Elders for the visionary move of constructing the Ekiti Elders Resort, he appealed to the National Senior Citizens Centre for its counsel on effective operationalization of the Ekiti Elders Resort.
However, a retired civil, Abang Keju, expressed worry over the implementation process, noting that previous provisions for the elderly had not been fulfilled.
“It is not enough for government to set up such centres, it is for government to fund it. It should start by ensuring that retired civil servants get their pay promptly,” he advised.