Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
A former Head of States, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), has expressed support for the institutionalisation of a special intervention fund for the elderly in the country.
He made the call yesterday in Abuja at the National Conference on ageing citizens organised by the Coalition of Societies for the Rights of Older Persons in Nigeria (COSROPIN) and the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
Gowon, who chaired the event, where COSROPIN was formally launched, said old age is not a disease, neither are grey hairs punishments for any infractions, which people knowingly or unknowingly committed at some point in their lives.
He said the aim of conference, among others, was to sensitise the government on the plight of older persons, solicit the support of privileged Nigerians in the advocacy for the rights and privileges of older persons and to encourage respect, rights and dignity of older persons and prevent their abuse.
“If anything, the issues of poor health management, delayed pension payment and inadequate housing, especially as reported in the media daily, remind us of the plight of older citizens and the urgent need to redress them,” he said.
The former head state said people easily forget that not all retired men and women are tired, adding that some young people in service also act as though they will not grow old.
According to Gowon, there are elderly persons in different living conditions across the country, adding that most of them live in deplorable and almost sub-human conditions.
“We need to rethink how we treat our senior citizens,” Gowon said.
The President of the coalition, Senator Darlington Eze Ajoku, said country that abandons its elderly citizens, who have contributed in diverse ways to the development of their communities and indeed, the country is sure to be compromised by mounting social and moral decadence.
“They lack access to basic necessities to accommodate them in their vulnerable status. A majority of them lack access to health support systems, medicare, proper nutrition, accommodation, financial and social protection rights and vocational engagements among others”.