Governor Kayode Fayemi
TOBA SULEIMAN WRITES ON EFFORTS BY THE EKITI STATE GOVERNMENT TO PUT VITALITY IN THE LIFE OF THE AGED AND SENIOR CITIZENS IN THE STATE UNDER ITS SOCIAL SECURITY SCHEME
If there is any programme so dear to the heart of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State within his 8-point agenda, it is this Social Security Scheme (SSS) that has direct bearing with the enhancement of the lives of the aged people in the state.
It would be recalled that Fayemi had informed the people of the state, while assuming office in October, 2010 that an eight-point agenda, which include Education, Agriculture, Health, Industrial Development, Tourism, Women Empowerment and Infrastructural Development, which would soon be put in place would form the pivot upon which his entire programme in four years would revolve.
Initially when the governor disclosed this plan, it did not receive people’s accolade as the programme appeared too strange and a difficult attempt that any government would want to embark upon. At the point of mentioning and even up to the time of implementing the first batch, skeptics in the state raised doubt that such a programme cannot succeed in view of the lean purse of the state.
During the double celebrations of the 51st anniversary of the Nigeria Independence and 15th anniversary of the creation of Ekiti State, the governor announced the payment of the monthly stipends of N5,000 to each of the beneficiaries of the SSS. He said the programme was targeted at the elderly ones, especially those above 65 years of age who must have used the greater part of their lives in the services of the state and country, and who should not be left to die in penury.
The governor disclosed that the Scheme was to provide succour to these categories of people, who could no longer fend for themselves at their old age. He pointed out that the present administration in the state having been aware of the level of poverty, boldly written on the faces of most people, there is the need to ensure that any reasonable and responsive government towards resolving the problems took drastic measure.
The Scheme, which was first inaugurated in October 2011, at the serene community of Ise-Ekiti, in Ise-Emure Local Government area of the state, was to provide succour to a total of 10,084 indigent elders who were beneficiaries of the monthly stipend of N5,000 each. Interestingly, the programme, which did not enjoy the popular acceptability among most people, later became “a rejected stone by the builders, that later becomes major corner stones.”
Eight months later, when the governor decided to upgrade the number of the beneficiaries, from the initial 10,000 to 20,000. While flagging-off the payment for the Batch B beneficiaries of the scheme at Omuo-Ekiti in East Local Government area of the state, Fayemi said the scheme which was employed by his administration to address adult poverty challenges was already hitting at the target as more elderly citizens who had once thought the programme was a mirage are now subscribing to.
“Today, a new set of 9,186 senior citizens is being injected into the scheme bringing the total beneficiaries to date to a little less than 20,000. According to him, the scheme which was employed by his administration to address adult poverty challenges was already hitting at the target as more elderly citizens who had once thought the programme was a mirage are now subscribing.
“I am happy to note that since the inauguration of the Scheme in October 2011, the accruing benefits have been providing succour to a total of 10,084 indigent elders who have been receiving monthly stipend of N5,000 each. This novel approach which has been applauded across political, ethnic, social and economic divide is a tool being employed by the administration to battle poverty challenges,” he said.
Fayemi said the scheme was conceived to improve the living condition of the senior citizens and serve as a poverty reduction strategy in favour of the deserving poor through the provision of regular income and free health care; adding that this was a fulfillment of his electioneering campaigns.
The Governor said the emergence of the second batch of the beneficiaries became necessary so as to capture as many qualified elderly citizens as possible who did not participate in the first enumeration exercise partly due to skepticism arising from the weariness of failed promises by politicians.
“Being a major public issue, the implementing Ministry was directed to conduct another enumeration of the elderly citizens in February 2012. The exercise brought out over 34,000 elderly citizens from whom another batch of Nine thousand, One hundred and Eighty-six thousand beneficiaries have been selected. This to me, is another evidence of a promise kept”, he said.
On how the State Government has been able to cope despite its meagre resources, Fayemi said the scheme was not conceived because Government has abundant resources but due to “the will to positively affect the lives of the toiling masses for whom this government is in authority”.
He said that the administration was always propelled by the need to make life meaningful and comfortable for the elderly. While stressing that the scheme would now cost Government a sum of One hundred Million Naira monthly (N1 million) monthly, the Governor said elderly citizens should be rest assured of continued care and support from government, even as he said that the Scheme now has a strong legal backing so that it can outlive the present administration.
Fayemi who hinted that the programme was dear to him, charged all Council Assistants to the Governor to be alive to their responsibilities so that the programme could run more effectively and efficiently; adding that “all hands must be on deck for the smooth implementation of the scheme to ensure its holistic success as any deviation would be sanctioned.”
The Commissioner for Labour, Productivity and Human Capital Development, Mr. Apalara Wole-Adewumi said the scheme was not aimed at undermining the ultimate responsibility of families to care for their aged ones, but should see it as a reward for the past contributions of the deserving elderly citizens.
Wole-Adewumi said the people would foster social solidarity through a regained sense of citizenship that will enable them contribute to the society and enhance citizens-government relations, even as government is acknowledging its own roles and moral commitment to the welfare of citizens regardless of party affiliation.
According to him, it is no longer news to any one that provision of regular income of monthly stipend to indigent elderly is a unique and novel programme being run only in Ekiti State in the whole of West Africa.
“I have asked myself, many times, why a government with meager financial resources at her disposal will embark on a programme like this among the numerous and competing social economic obligations the government owes the citizens.
“The only answer coming unto my mind is that it is a double programme and a feat achievable only by a compassionate, selfless and service-oriented personality which the governor of Ekiti represents, own for his integrity in all undertakings. It has been said that politicians of all climes are known and identified by their character. We, in Ekiti State are lucky, to have a governor who is not only kind-hearted and loving but also service driven and considerate.
While reflecting on the similar programme, when it was first launched in Ise-Ekiti, Wole-Adewumi reminded the crowd that from there the governor made attempt to increase the number of the beneficiaries to 20,000 within the first quarter of 2012.
He said, skeptics in the society that time did not believe, as they kept asking for the magic wand he was going to use, giving consideration to the lean purse of government.
He said, the reality was however dawn on the people when the governor gave his ministry an approval to conduct a second enumeration of the elderly in Ekiti State, adding that the exercise produced 34,000 senior citizens out of whom a total of 9,186 are objectively selected as Batch B Beneficiaries that will be receiving N5,000 each on monthly basis.