More than two years after the Federal Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on February 10, 2021, ratified the National Policy on Ageing for Older Persons in Nigeria, not much of the main goals of the policy, which, according to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, was meant to uphold the rights and dignity of senior citizens, has been achieved. Their security, care, self-fulfilment, and the provision of an age-friendly environment have all not gone beyond dreams.
In accordance with Section 16(2)(d) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, President Buhari consequently approved the establishment of the National Senior Citizen Centre (NSCC) as an agency of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. This makes it compulsory for all states to provide adequate social services for the elderly.
The policy, as developed, covers the intersecting spectrum of issues and opportunities for older women and men in urban and rural settings, older migrants, older persons among the internally displaced and others living with disabilities.
While signing the National Senior Citizens Centre Act 2017 into law, President Buhari admitted that the elderly in the country had not been treated fairly and with dignity, saying “Senior citizens are the most neglected and abused in the society, and have been left to die in silence.”
Our youth can make positive impact in policy making
Buhari renews two federal appointments
Speaking through the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, at the first Presidential Summit on Ageing held in Abuja in 2022, President Buhari declared October 5 every year as National Day for Senior Citizens in Nigeria. Nonetheless, the attention needed by the elderly in Nigeria needs to go further than the lip-service of declaring a national day in their honour.
Beyond the 2022 summit and recognition of some elderly persons at an award ceremony, there hasn’t been any substantial change since then, in government’s perception of ageing and its attitude towards the elderly in society.
Government intention to improve the quality of life, including healthy ageing of the elderly in the country has still not gone farther than what it was before the policy was ratified. Only recently was a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the development of a National Benchmark for the training of caregivers signed between the Federal Ministry of Health and the NSCC led by its director-general, Dr Emem Omokaro.
The development of a functional data management system needed for effective research, planning, monitoring and evaluation of ageing-related issues also remains a matter yet to be addressed. Indeed, no national register of the elderly who are 70 years and above exists for now. Likewise, the inauguration of the Governing Board of the NSCC in June 2021 equally failed to change the narratives about the plight of the elderly in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the number of elderly in the country keeps growing rapidly.
Figures from the 2022 survey carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show an increase of two million in the number of the elderly from 14.8 million in 2019. This is expected to double by 30 million in the year 2050. 12.5 per cent of the global population are 60 years and above.
The predicament of the elderly in Nigeria is better imagined when examined within the context of perpetual economic hardships and poor health facilities that have become synonymous with the life of citizens in the country.
Majority of the elderly in Nigeria still suffers from the challenges of unpaid retirement benefits, including gratuities and monthly pensions with state governments being the worst defaulters. No policy statement that seeks to identify the elderly for respect or make special provisions for them in public places, including banks, offices, airports, hospitals, polling centres during elections, railway stations, motor parks, supermarkets, stadia, and public events exists in Nigeria today.
In other climes, senior citizens are given pride of place in all facets of national life and made to feel happy and proud for their various contributions to national development. In such countries, elderly people are entitled to subsidised healthcare services and holidays. This sharply contrasts with Nigeria’s elderly persons who struggle to get their gratuity and pensions paid. It is most unfair for workers to spend their youthful days serving the nation only to have to beg for their pension in old age.
If citizens know that they would be cared for in their old age, the tendency to engage in corrupt practices is likely to reduce. We, therefore, encourage government to do everything that would make life easier for the elderly. Above all, the NSCC must be made to work and function for the reasons that prompted its establishment.
The country’s failure to start caring for the elderly now would mature tomorrow into an intractable challenge when many of today’s young people get old. It’s time to give the elderly the care they deserve.
Nigerians can now earn US Dollars by acquiring premium domain names, most clients earn about $7,000 to $10,000, all paid in US Dollars. Click here to learn how to start.