Adoba Echono, Abuja
The Nigerian Government is to work closely with the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, and the United Nations for the introduction and implementation of new and existing policies that would improve the living conditions of older citizens in Africa.
This was made known during a High Level Conference on the Rights of Older Persons organised by the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, and ECOWAS Parliament at the 2019 Second Ordinary Session of the regional Parliament in Abuja, Nigeria.
The Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented at the conference by the country’s Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume said that older persons in the African society had always been catered for, and their opinions sought, due to the respect and dignity accorded them in the society.
He said that the Nigerian government had put up some major policies in its effort toward addressing the rights of older persons in the country.
“With Western civilization, some of these traditional processes that bestow honour and respect on the older persons are on the decline. It is the duty of African to bring back such glory and honor to their older ones.”
“We cannot fold our arms and expect others to do these for us; this conference has come up to afford us the opportunity to take up some of these responsibilities.”
“Therefore, I urge all African countries here represented to take back to their home countries, that we need to wake up to the challenges of older persons in the region.
“We also need to collaborate and join efforts with other nations of the World including international communities to fight for the Rights of older persons globally,” he stated.
According to President Buhari, in the efforts towards addressing the Rights of older persons, the Nigerian government has put up some measures including the Senior Citizens Act of 2018.
He explained that the Act mandates all tiers of government to establish national citizens’ centres to provide care, training for the older ones also to harmonise its pension scheme to eliminate all hitches in pension administration.
“It is important to remind ourselves as Africans that care for older persons is culturally and traditionally rooted and highly respected in African societies and Nigeria is not an exception to this.”
President Buhari disclosed that the Nigerian government is studying the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Right of older persons in Africa and it would be ratified in due course.
The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Moustapha Cisse-Lo, who was represented by the Deputy Speaker of the regional parliament, Ahmed Wase, said the aim of the conference was to come up with a solution to catering for the aged in the society.
He urged the parliament and members of the community to collaborate and ensure that the protocols on the issue of the aged persons were implemented.
Mr. Cisse-Lo gave assurance that ECOWAS would give its maximum co-operation and support to the society and the people to ensure that older people were accorded their rights.
The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande said that it was critical for him to be at the occasion because the situation needed to be given more attention because of the rising population of older persons.
He said that it was not just enough for laws to be made, but for policies to be made and implemented as it was key to improving the situation.
Professor Muhammad-Bande gave assurance of UN’s readiness to work closely with Africa to ensure that the rights of older people were upheld.