By Goodluck Ikiebe
Nigeria’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, has assured citizens that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government would do everything humanly possible to prevent older citizens from slipping below the poverty line.
The Minister stated this on Tuesday at an event to commemorate International and National Day of Older Persons, 2023 with the theme; “Fulfilling The Promises Of The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights For Older Persons Across Generations” organised by her Ministry through the National Senior Citizens’ Centre in partnership with the United Nations.
She described Nigeria’s older citizens as the federal government’s priority which must be protected.
The Minister also announced that President Tinubu has directed that her Ministry should set aside 10% of Social Safety Net intervention programmes for older persons in the country.
She said the right of senior citizens in the areas of job security, health, livelihood, agriculture and other development planning must be considered.
According to Dr. Edu, “Presently, older persons are said to be about 14.8million out of the entire population. All the citizens at all levels must be protected. And that’s why President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has rightly directed that in all our social welfare interface, which is the Social Safety Net, we must ensure the protection of all Nigerians including the older citizens and prevent them from slipping below the poverty line.
“The President has also directed that those who are under the poverty line must be assisted to get them out of it and must be captured in the social intervention programmes.”
She disclosed that her Ministry would launch two such social intervention programmes this year with emphasis on senior citizens. “We will be providing for senior citizens who are affected by humanitarian crisis. We will be working with the Centre on this. I’m very proud of what the Center is doing in terms of creating a model home, where all the Senior citizens can feel dignified.”
The Minister appealed to UN Agencies and development partners to factor in the interest and well-being of older citizens in the day-to-day operations.
Also speaking at the event held at the United Nations Office Abuja, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, said the occasion offered everyone an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the protection of the rights of older persons and commended Nigeria for establishing the National Senior Citizens Centre, NSCC, saying it was a step in the right direction.
He regretted that despite the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, older persons continue to face obstacles in the enjoyment and exercising of their human rights.
“Ageing is a complex and multifaceted reality that will touch all of us if we are lucky… It is my sincere hope that today’s dialogue will allow for reflections on effective promotion and protection of older persons in Nigeria, focusing on their contributions throughout their life, for the knowledge and expertise they can pass on to younger generations,” Schmale said.
On her part, the Director-General of the National Senior Citizens Centre, Dr. Emem Omakaro, commended the Minister for attending the event despite her tight schedule.
She explained that the Centre which began operation in 2021 has in the short period brought to the fore the plight of older persons in Nigeria.
The NSCC DG expressed optimism that with Dr. Edu in charge of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Nigeria’s older citizens would soon enjoy a new lease of life.