Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta
Wife of the Ogun State governor, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun, yesterday expressed displeasure at the apparent neglect of elderly citizens, as she laments the absence of social welfare schemes to fend for them.
Abiodun, in a demographic analysis of their plight, said come 2049, one in three persons would fall in the pensionable age-bracket and could be liable to untimely death as a result of lack, arising from socioeconomic neglect.
She disclosed these in Abeokuta, the state’s capital, at the formal launch of JBS Elderly Health and Well Being Foundation, also known as Africa’s ‘Adopt a Gran’ programme.
The Ogun State ‘First Lady’, who is part of the foundation as a Patron, described the initiative as a response to cater to the needs of underprivileged elderly citizens in the Southwest states, to begin with.
Bamidele submitted that the initiative would see to the welfare of pensioners who are increasing and are neglected by the society.
“This is a direct response to the clear need for a well-established system that would cater to the underprivileged elderly population in our society, who represent a key demography in the nation’s statistics.
“For any society to thrive, a commitment to manage and take care of the elderly must remain a priority, because according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the proportion of the population aged 65 and above is expected to increase tremendously in the coming years, especially in developing countries like ours.
“What this means is that by the year 2049, one in three people will be a pensioner.
“Figures show that the aging process is accelerating and the number of old people at the world level is expected to double considerably.
“Therefore, we are in a race against time to ensure that the elderly can grow old with security and dignity while they can still participate in the society with equal rights and privileges,” she admonished.
The governor’s wife added that the journey to that destination had just begun and that the JBS had caught that vision with the JBS Elderly Health and Wellbeing Foundation Africa.
“Through the ‘Adopt A Gran’ initiative, we can scale our efforts over time while tracking and measuring our success until we can expand our reach.
“The plan with this initiative is to target the individual welfare of our elders by providing mental, physical, financial, and emotional support through a systemic process that is easily replicable across the country,” she enthused.
Bamidele presented gifts to elders who were present at the formal launching of the programme.
Earlier in his remarks, a former Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said the aged in the country were facing insecurity, abuse, discrimination and lack of care service.
While listing the various intervention of the federal government targeted at the elderly in the country, the former minister faulted the pensions scheme that has never been adjusted to match the current exchange rate
He said, “Those who even worked while they were young are receiving poor pensions. Pensions have never been adjusted right from time. For example, someone receiving N12,000 when N1 equalled $1 is still receiving N12000 when $1 is now over N400”.
Also on the occasion, the Ogun State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, said the launching of the foundation in the state was the first of its kind and as such, remarkable.
According to her, over 1000 elders in the state are currently enrolled in the Ogun Free Health Care, but clamoured for the collaboration of government, the private sector and philanthropists in helping to dignify the less-privileged Nigerians at old age.
The founder of the Foundation, Mrs. Olutoyin Ajala, in her remarks, explained that the foundation which started in December 2020 had since been providing foodstuff, clean water and toiletries to identified underprivileged elderly people in Ogun, Lagos and Oyo states
She added that the group aimed to reach 2000 under-privileged elderly people by the third quarter of this year alone, and had set about it since January.
Board members of the foundation include the Group Executive Director of Dangote Group of Companies, Engr. Mansur Ahmed; Prof. Oluwole Akande; a former Commissioner of Commerce in Ogun State, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru; veteran actress, Ajoke Silva and Sky News UK Presenter, Gillian Joseph; while Olukemi Ashiru, Ansa Ogu and Queen Okeke are also directors