By Dike Onwuamaeze
A Non-Governmental Organisation has called for the creation of the Ministry of Elderly Citizens (MEC), and the enunciation of policies that would take care of the needs of elderly people in Nigeria.
The call was made by the Executive Director, Center for Gender Economics Africa (CGE Africa), Ms. Uchenna Idoko, during a recent media round table to call attention to the abuses being suffered by elderly people in the society.
Idoko said the MEC was needed because the abuses of elders were very endemic in most parts of the country to warrant a ministry that is dedicated to them so that all these abuses could be taken care.
She added that Nigeria had no agency that is exclusively meant for the care of the elderly men and women. “The Ministry of Youths and Sports Development was created to specifically deal with the youths while there is none that specifically attends to the needs of elderly people. That is why some countries call it the Ministry of Gender to take care of both elderly men and women. We need to call it an issue because,” she said. Idoko said that preventing and reporting abuse suffered by elders to law enforcement agencies should be everyone’s responsibility.
She also noted that it was worrisome that Nigeria had never signed any known specific international or United Nations’ agreement for old persons. Nigeria, according to her, in 2014 joined other nations around the world to adopt a resolution (E/RES/2014/7) at the United Nations Economic and Social Council that recognised ageism as the common source of, the justification for and the driving force behind age discrimination.
“The issue of protecting the rights of the aged in Nigeria does not really have constitutional backing in Nigeria. The only social policy in place for elderly persons in Nigeria has to do with retirees from formal employment as reflected in the Reformed Pension Scheme Act of 2004, whereby employees and employers in public and private sectors contribute 7.5 per cent each month the pension fund,” Idoko said.
She pointed out that the reformed pension system had not prevented the abuses retirees went through to get their pension as they are often owed pensions for long periods.
Idoko described the abuse of elderly people as a human rights and public health issues that would not be allowed to continue. “We must put an end to elder abuse. Today, it is our grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers who are suffering. Tomorrow, it will be us,” she stated, adding that: “The elderly, especially women, are vulnerable to abuse and violence because of discriminatory social and cultural attitudes that are often exacerbated by poverty and lack of access to legal protection.”
She also called for the enactment of laws of international standards that would guarantee old people’s rights and prohibit all forms of discrimination against them.