Dave Omokaro Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and other stakeholders on Friday, urged the Federal Government to urgently provide social welfare for the growing population of older persons in the country.
They made the call at the inauguration of the Governing Board and Advisory Council of the Dave Omokaro Africa Institute on Ageing and Development (DOFRIAD) in Abuja.
Chairman of the event, Prof. Julius Okojie, said government was not as serious as religious bodies, NGOs and private individuals in addressing the needs of older people.
“We must have a centre where older people can play Ludo and have fun; when they are ill, they need a knowledge caregiver to engage them mentally.
“In other countries, the aged are given drugs for non-communicable diseases; they are given bus-pass free but here, we do not even have very functional transport system,” he said.
He said that ageing was a big problem in the country as older persons often cry out on national television for support to meet their medical needs.
Okojie, former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), said there were no medical insurance for the aged, adding that retirees were really facing a lot of difficulties in the country.
He said that there was need to have a rethink, pointing out that “we can only prepare our children for the future but cannot prepare the future for our children.”
Okojie said that the traditional institution could no longer handle the challenges of ageing, adding that the public sector had to step in.
He stressed the need for government to get started as verifiable statistics showed that people were beginning to live longer, given the success recorded in addressing mortality rate.
The chairman called for support for the vulnerable in the country, saying that there was need to keep the hope of the aged alive.
He said that people were ageing not because of the number of years they had spent on earth but because of hardship.
In her remarks, Executive Director of the foundation, Dr Emem Omokaro, said ageing is an industry and could employ a lot of youths as caregivers.
She said the institute, when fully operational, would exploit the opportunities and train youth on how to take advantage of the industry.
Omokaro said that in another 30 years, a lot of youths would have become older persons and that the knowledge acquired, would help them prepare for it.
She said that there were 8.9 million older people in the country and that by 2030 the number would rise to 28.9 million.
“If government does promote healthy ageing now, if government does not step in now to provide social nets for the vulnerable, ageing will cause poverty and deny children education.
“Issues of ageing does not only affect the old man in the village, it cuts across all the age bands; that is why government must face it and tackle it,” she said.
Omokaro said that the foundation focused on research, capacity-building, advocacy and stakeholders’ engagement on ageing.
She said the foundation recognised the inevitability of ageing and the need to adequately prepare all stakeholders such as government, civil society, communities and families for the growing number of older persons.
She said the central challenge is the failure of public policy and live-cause strategy for addressing the challenges of ageing.
Omokaro said that the failure was hinged on lack of institution and human resources capacity, policy and research gaps.
She said that for any development to be sustainable, the strategy must be integrated and hinged on fundamental pillars of institution, policy, research and human resource.
The executive director said that the foundation, haven recognized the gaps, decided to step in not only in Nigeria but all over Africa.
“Our intention is to establish a first-class institute on ageing that will speak to Africa’s challenges and a force to reckon with at the global level,” she said.
Also speaking, Mr Habib Abuh, a Director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed the need to amend the pension scheme law.
He said until the challenges of older persons were addressed, corruption in civil service would never end.
“I am retiring as a director and an ambassador after 35 years of work and I am getting less than N20 million for that service.
“As the law stands now, I will get half of that amount now and then the rest will be invested by the pension administrators.
“If the money is being invested, I should get profit which when I die after 15 years, my family will not get anything out of it.
“I am calling on the Federal Government and the National Assembly which is working to change the Act, to look at this issue.
“If the government does not do anything about it, then I assure you, corruption in the civil service will never end,” he said