The centre which was set up by National Senior Citizen Act 2017 has the responsibility of catering for the needs of senior citizens in the country. It is the first national corporate body with focus on inclusion of senior citizens in sustainable development in Nigeria.
The centre is mandated to identify the needs of senior citizens and facilitate health, economic, social and recreational programmes aimed at enhancing their dignity and security.
It is also meant to build the capacity and wellbeing of senior citizens to ensure continual participation in the things that they value in the society. Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, during the meeting, urged older persons in the country to participate actively in the dialogue.
In her address, the minister said the Federal Government has developed the National Policy on Ageing an
also established the National Senior Citizens Centre to meet the challenges of older persons in the country. She stated that, hunger, poverty as well as the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated government’s decision to tailor efforts at including the vulnerable population.
She said that in developing the National Policy on Ageing and establishing the National Senior Citizens Centre, the government had ensured, that the very essential institutions, systems and mechanisms to facilitate the quality of life, economic and social participation of older persons are guaranteed.
In addition, she said, the challenges of older persons and the opportunities that accrue from meeting these challenges had now been integrated into Nigeria’s development plans.
She said: “I am delighted to say that with the establishment of the National Senior Citizens Center, the concerns of older persons are no longer handled in a discretionary and arbitrary manner but are now addressed comprehensively, as detailed in the National Senior Citizens Act and the National Policy on Ageing, which is soon to be operationalized by NSCC.
“The now instituted Older Persons Safety-net Programme, which tartheir gets very poor and vulnerable older persons, attest to the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to age- inclusive development.” The minister, who expressed appreciation to all senior citizens, identified them as the population of concern.
“In contemporary times, poverty, hunger and COVID-19 pandemic are threatening and when global efforts are tailored towards the attainment of the sustainable development goals with the mantra of “leave no one behind’, responsible governments are fashioning policy and legal frameworks to ensure the inclusion of its vulnerable population,” she said.
Farouq urged the senior citizens to let their voices be heard through their unreserved participation in the dialogue intended to forge and leverage strong partnership with senior citizens. Director General, National Senior Citizens Centre, Dr. Emem Omokaro, applauded the Senior Citizens for their resilience in the face of hardship, suffering, neglect and abuse over the years.
“Today we have the National Policy on Ageing and the Senior Citizens Centre. The next thing is that we need to talk. This dialogue is important so that senior citizens will know tartheir rights and what is being handed to them by the law.
There is no way we can identify the needs of senior citizens and cater to those needs as directed by the act without forging an engagement mechanism,” he said. In attendance were senior citizens representing various categories, including the urban and rural, the military and paramilitary as well as the public and private sectors.
The dialogue sought to find out the major problems facing the elderly in the country. Musa Haruna from Nasawas State is an aged pensioner who complained bitterly about poor welfare package for pensioners. He urged the centre to keep to the aims and objectives for which it was set up.
Haruna urged the DG and her team to keep aside politics and tribalism so that older persons in the country will enjoy equal participation and benefit due to them. He said: “I am delighted to see that older persons have the platform to speak and be heard. We have been speaking before now but our voices were not heard.
I am bitter about how I lost a dear friend, my friend died in the struggle for him to access his pension. What many don’t understand is that aged people struggle with ill health which most often family members alone are able to care for.
“My friend died because he could not access his pension to foot his medical bill and this is somebody that used his youthful age to contribute to national development.”
Rukayat Abdul expressed happiness that older citizens have begun to gain national recognition. She said: “I am happy to see that matters affecting older citizens are being discussed at the national level.
This is the first time I am attending a national meeting with the interest of older citizen like us. The problem we have in Nigerian is implementation.
“We have heard about the juicy offers written on paper, I pray that those in charge will go beyond enacting policies and get to its implementation. If these policies are implemented; old age will be enjoyed in Nigeria as it is in developed climes.”
Sarah Abraham, a pensioner applauded the establishment of the Senior Citizens Centre and the National Policy on Ageing, saying they were established to take care of the social welfare of older persons in the country.
According to her the benefits would include leisure, health care, pension, rehabilitation, income security, supplementary income, skills development among others social protection safety nets for the elderly citizens. She described the development as the dawn of a new day in Nigeria.