Some elderly persons in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, have urged the Federal Government to pass a national policy on ageing that would ensure the provision of social services to senior citizens.
They made the plea in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday in Abuja.
The senior citizens said such a policy would guarantee their security, healthcare services, housing, and legal assistance.
Lydia Gambo, a retired Police Officer, regretted that Nigeria had no functional national policy on the care and welfare of older persons.
Mrs Gambo noted the changing demographics in Nigeria, in addition to the breakdown of the family structure as well as the absence of a social security system, presented a unique challenge to the elderly in Nigeria.
She said there was need for government to promulgate policies that would promote well-being of the elderly in Nigeria as they faced challenges from retirement, ageing, and social isolation.
“Many people envisage the idea of retirement as a stage of leisure, no troubles, carefree living, relaxation, and traveling. However, this vision of retirement does not happen too often in Nigeria.
“The abrasive reality is that most of the elderly in Nigeria find it very difficult to adjust to life after retirement.
“Apart from money, another part of retirement challenge is adjusting to life without a job. Work provides many people not only with income, but also with social interaction and a sense of purpose,” she explained.
Umar Maiwada, a retired civil servant said that the policy should aim at improving access to quality healthcare for the elderly to reduce poverty.
Mr Maiwada said the policy should be designed to cover the healthcare needs of retirees and ageing persons in Nigeria.
According to him, the Vital Contributor’s Social Health Insurance Programme, VCSHIP, that is designed to cover the healthcare needs of retirees and the aged Nigerians, cannot work effectively for all.
“A programme that allows me to pay N15, 000 annually as my own contribution, I have four adults without jobs in my house. How much is my pension?
“My children are not working talk more of contributing to my healthcare. I see my doctor every Monday and Thursday and I do not spend less than N30, 000.
“Spending my pension that does not come early enough on health and feeding of my family is a sad thing.
“This is why I am calling on the Federal Government to pass a national policy that will benefit the ageing. I am 76 now, still suffering and struggling to my grave,” Mr Maiwada said.
He said the government had failed pensioners because they had expectations that there would be implementation of existing pension regulation schemes in the country.
“These our expectations are borne from the need to have a sustainable standard of living in retirement, and payment of our benefits as at when due.’’
Veronica Magaji, a retired Principal, said the Federal Government should put a policy that would evaluate data for a well-designed programme intended for the elderly.
Another elderly person, 82 year-old retired engineer, Mr Francis Kalu, urged the Federal Government to take seriously the issue of welfare of the elderly in Nigeria.
Kalu said that at the domestic level, the government should formulate and implement policies that would improve the lives of the elderly.
He said that there should be a framework and role for all state institutions in advancing the welfare of the aged, as Nigeria had the highest out-of-pocket health spending and poorest health indicators in the world.
“This was the propelling force for the initiation of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, which aimed at universal health coverage and targeted at providing comprehensive health care at affordable costs to employees without considering retirees.
“It is important for the government to draft a national policy and launch its implementation that will benefit all.
“If the policy makers are young today, they will become old tomorrow and also benefit from this policy the elderly are crying for today,” he noted.
Adetunji Yakini, a retired civil servant said that one of the greatest problems of Nigeria was leaders’ inability to keep their word, as well as failure of managers of the pension scheme to also keep their oath of office.
“Many elderly people who depend on pension, suffer to get their pension, many even die before the pension starts coming. Some of the elderly, who are retired, cannot even pay their rent.
“Some who retired and moved to the rural areas, die immediately they get home because of suffering,” Mr Yakini said.
According to him, since poverty remains a major challenge in the country, elderly persons who have retired from the productive phase are most vulnerable to experiencing economic hardship.
He said that the elderly were being forced to cope with hardships as a result of dwindling financial resources, increased health challenges, and the rise in medical expenses.