Senior Citizens Commission for Nigeria
The Senior Citizens Care Foundation, SCCF, is one of the few organisations in Nigeria whose primary focus is the care of the elderly. SCCF hosted a national workshop in Abeokuta, on Wednesday 9th July 2014. In attendance were the State Governors of Osun, Ekiti and Edo, several senior citizens and also members of the Nigerian Society for Geriatrics and Gerontology. Alongside his Excellency Prince Bola Ajibola, Dr Fayemi of Ekiti State and Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese, John Dada from Fantsuam was on the panel of speakers. The workshop observed that for the past thirty-two years, Nigeria has been making efforts, locally and internationally to develop a comprehensive policy for the care of its senior citizens but there has not been much appreciable progress.
Home to 7.8 million older people
It has been estimated that by 2010, Nigeria was home to 7.8 million older people, with a growth rate of 3.2 per cent, and the country is acknowledged to be home to the largest population of elderly people in Africa. The central bank has confirmed that, next to oil, the elderly are the highest income earners in Nigeria through the remittances sent from their children abroad. But this only applies to only a small segment of the elderly population. For the rest it is worrying that there is no universal pension and entitlement for the elderly. This lack of provision for old age may be a contributory factor to the high level of corruption and mismanagement of Government resources as individuals try to maximise whatever they can for their old age. In addition, due to the scourge of HIV/AIDS, many elderly parents are now carers of their grandchildren.
Meeting the challenges
The workshop discussed these various challenges and came up with suggestions on the way forward:
The family unit should be supported so that it can continue to provide adequate care and support for the elderly.
The concept of old peoples homes is alien to Nigeria but variants of it can be considered, e.g. Hospice Care for the sick and Respite Care.
It is critical to provide education on elderly issues, in particular between the generations, so that young people have opportunities to learn from and provide care for the elderly.
Young people should be encouraged to join the critical mass to raise the profile of the elderly at all relevant forums.
The workshop also requested the establishment of a National Commission for Senior Citizens with the mandate to ensure that care of the elderly remains a cross-cutting issue in ALL aspects of Nigeria’s annual planning and budgeting.
The Commission should also monitor all Government Ministries to ensure that they make statutory contributions to the care of the elderly. The Commission should be devolved to the State and Local Government level and act as a regulatory authority in the development and implementation of a Social Protection Policy for elderly people in Nigeria.