Sunday Aborisade in Abuja
The Senate Committee on Special Duties yesterday expressed the readiness of the upper legislative chamber to begin the process of amending the Act which established the National Senior Citizens Centre to enhance its efficiency.
The agency was set up in 2018 to cater to the needs of senior citizens; and for related matters in line with section 16. (2) (d) of the 1999 Constitution but it eventually took off in 2022.
The Chairman of the Senate panel, Senator Shehu Lawan Kaka, made the pledge when the Director General of the National Senior Citizens Centre, Emem Omokaro, defended the agency’s 2023 budget before the committee.
Kaka described as unacceptable, the gross underfunding of the agency meant to take care of the elderly in the society.
He said the amendment would allow senior citizens to enjoy certain privilege including healthcare and social security.
He also said the proposed amendments would seek recognition for the senior citizens in the constitution and mandates public and private sector players to contribute to their wellbeing apart from government arrangements for them.
The DG of the NSCC, had while defending the agency’s 2023 budget, lamented that many of the programmes proposed to make life better for aged ones in the society could not be achieved due to poor funding.
She lamented that the health insurance scheme and the issuance of a multi- purpose social security identity cards which would enable them to access facilities at very reduced prices had yet to take off.
She said: “We have started a plan that would engage about 1,150 retired professionals and technocrats who are technocrats, we need funds to facilitate it’s take off.
“We are doing this in partnership with some federal government agencies, foreign and local nongovernmental organizations and private firms.
“They will use their professional expertise to provide skills to the young generations at the various skills acquisition centres we are planning across the country
“We are building an inclusive society where anybody would not be able to look down on our senior citizens.
“This will make the working population to be joyful that once they retired there is an oasis waiting for them.
“It is called community development/ empowerment.
“Our maor challenge is that policy makers look down on issues affecting the senior citizens. They see it as a waste of time and money.
“For instance, we developed 11 international standard projects, four of them were dropped.Our budget for capital projects is the lowest. In the 2022 budget, our capital vote was N300 million out of the N2.5 billion that we proposed.
“It has was reduced to N250 million in the 2023 budget. We have written, advocated and begged, all to no avail.
“We are supposed to build seven model senior citizens centres across the six geopolitical zones and Abuja that we have already developed their standard operational model.
“Nobody is listening to us. If we get the required funding, we will take care of the aged person especially when 70 per cent of them live in the rural areas,” she lamented.