A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has appealed to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to sign the Older Persons Rights and Privileges Bill on his table.
The coalition made up of 148 NGOs, associations and institutions, working with older people, made the call at a Voice Elderly Community of Practice workshop on Wednesday in Abuja.
Persecondnews reports the Bill seeks to confer privileges and benefits on Older Persons that are aimed at enhancing their quality of life.
In 2021, the World Bank reported that while the majority of Nigerians are young people, the number of older persons in the country is constantly growing and is projected to reach 25.3 million in 2050.
The President of the Coalition of Societies for the Rights of Older Persons in Nigeria, (COSROPIN), Sen. Eze Ajoku, noted that the old persons are in the vulnerable class.
According to him, if the Bill is signed into law, it will be the first legal framework to safeguard older people, altering the narrative and protocol of how Nigerian senior citizens are treated, as well as concerns of their care, well-being, and dignity.
He said: “We have made a lot of progress in the last six years of our formation. Working with government, we have been able to develop the national policing on aging, we also brought about the inauguration of the board of the senior citizen centre, which is an agency dedicated to older persons. We have also worked on health insurance.
“The older persons are in the vulnerable class even though the nation does not plan for them as a vulnerable class. The problem that we have in this country is that policy makers forget that they will age.
“We will continue to push as a coalition to have a bill that protects the older person from stereotyping, discrimination and all sorts of things.
“You can’t retire a man who has worked for government at 60, and you withdraw his right to live by withrawing his right to medical attention. What they do when you retire is to withdraw your health insurance and they don’t pay you for the next 18 months.
“These are what we call abuse. That is why this community of practice is saying in the absence of government, what can we do to support the older persons, and that is why we are here to share experiences, brainstorm and share ideas on how to help them.”
Also speaking, the Executive Director, Dew Drop Foundation, Mrs Agatha Nnaji, said Nigeria is desperate need of the bill.
“I will ask, I will implore and I will beg President Tinubu to sign the bill on the rights and privileges of the elderly. We need it desperately in Nigeria.
“If you are 60 or 65 or older, that bill is for you, so the sooner we bring it in, and ensure the social protection of our elderly persons, the better for humanity.
“We have a lot of challenges that the elderly person are facing in Nigeria and right now there is really no bill or policy in place to make sure that they are well taken care of, so we are as a community of practice asking that this administration includes signing of that bill in this first tenure,” she said.
Speaking on specific areas the bill will deal with regards to the welfare of the elderly, Nnaji added: “Their healthcare, the privileges that they would enjoy if they were abroad, transportation system. There has to be a way that elderly people feel valued and they are not discriminated against.
“There should be some way of taking care of their pensions, so that when they get their money, they get it easily. There are also situations where their money gets stolen by the people that live with them.
“They should have a system whereby they can fall back on the police or some kind of vigilante group that will be in charge of supporting the elderly people. But healthcare, transportation and other social benefits we should take care of.”
On her part, the Programme Manager for Dew Drop Foundation, Mrs Vivian Ugo, said: “The idea behind the community of practice is because as individual organizations working in different locations and settings, we observed that the elderly population in Nigeria are being neglected.
“They are neglected in almost all the areas of life; in the policy framework, outstanding lifestyle, how we see them. Everything about the elderly in Nigeria is different from what is obtained in developed countries.
“So we have come together as a community to see how we can work this, starting from the government to individuals, to educating people on the issues of the elderly.”