The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) has said that Africa stands to benefit from the wealth of experience of older persons if their well-being and rights are adequately protected to enable them contribute their quota towards a Sustainable Development in the continent.
The President who spoke through the Minister of Special Duties, Dr. George Akume at the African Regional High-Level Conference on the Human Rights Situation of Older Persons stated that the Federal Government realises the strategic position the older persons occupy in nation building hence it introduced various policies and welfare programmes to aid their living conditions particularly in the areas of pension and health care.
According to the President at the conference which was organised by the National Human Rights Commission, Stakeholder Group on Ageing -Africa, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Federal Capital Territory and ECOWAS Parliament etc stated that the Federal Government will not rest on it’s oars but will continually interface with relevant stakeholders to fine-tune the necessary policies and programmes that will guarantee the longevity and improved social/health care of this critical group.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also tasked the Member States of African Union (AU) and other relevant stakeholders to put in place the necessary legal frameworks that will dovetail into improved protection of well-being and the human rights situation of older persons in the continent.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq who is also the Vice-Chair of Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), made this call in a welcome address at the African Regional High-Level Conference on the Human Situation of Older Persons, organised by the NHRC, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Stakeholder Group on Ageing-Africa, ECOWAS Parliament and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) etc.
He said the prospect of having a conference of this nature presents the opportunity to exchange ideas on measures taken by various countries and continents in escalating the civil, political, economic, social, economic and cultural rights of older persons.
According to the Executive Secretary, “The promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons should be a major concern for public authorities as older persons are full members of the society and their contribution remains important for national development.
“These discussions and agitations for the human rights of older persons should be considered as calls for inclusion and ensuring that no one is left behind in the scheme of things in achieving the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“As issues of such importance cannot be handled by an individual or an organization alone, I enjoin all relevant stakeholders to collaborate with one another towards realizing the primary aim of improving the lives/ well-being and the human rights situation of older persons.”
According to Ojukwu the narrative surrounding the rights of older persons which previously occupied the back burner has in recent times continued to resonate in major discussions within the national, regional and international space.
He maintained that there is need to firstly recognize and appreciate the fact that older persons occupy a special position in the world demographics.
“In addition, social security and social protection floors for older persons should be regarded as human rights which are interrelated, interdepended and indivisible and hinged on the principle of non- discrimination.
” and political persuasions are important tools to mount political pressure on government to develop and implement policies of this kind.
“We are lucky today to have in our mist the representative of the President and Commander-in-chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the Person of the Secretary General whose office is influential enough to change the plight of older persons in Nigeria and beyond.
“I wish to appeal to all of us that it is imperative that we do not postpone any critical decision that are required to be taken to achieve our desired goals as this will contribute immensely towards ensuring the successful development of an operative framework, that will guarantee the human rights of older persons.
“These decisions will not come easy, they will entail a lot of deliberations and compromise but we should be assured that it will go a long way in improving the human rights situation of older persons”, he said.
In her statement at the conference, the Founder of Dave Omokaro Foundation, a key player in Stakeholder Group Ageing-Africa, Dr. Emmem Omokaro said that older Persons remain the harbinger of development on the continent and therefore should have their rights protected to enable them play this pivotal role.
She opined that protecting the rights of this vulnerable group goes beyond legislations saying that good practices and acceptable standards should as well be deployed to ensure that make lives more meaningful for the older persons, while tapping from their rich experiences.
Also, HelpAge International, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), has urged parliamentarians from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to enhance protection for older persons in Africa.
Mr Shem Ochola, the Head of Network Coordination and Development of the organisation, who made the call during the High Level Conference on the Rights of Older Persons, organised by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said there was need for ECOWAS parliamentarians to work toward protecting the rights of older persons.
He called on them to rectify the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons on the continent.