The Executive Secretary National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chief Tony Ojukwu (SAN) has said that the establishment of the National Senior Citizens Centre is a demonstration of Nigerian government's commitment to protecting the well-being of older persons in the country. Ojukwu made this statement when he received a visiting delegation of UN Independent Expert on Enjoyment of all Human Rights of older persons led by Ms. Claudia Mahler to the Commission's headquarters.
According to him, the establishment of the Senior Citizens Centre will address issues and challenges affecting the older persons While commending Ms. Mahler for the official visit to Nigeria to access the Human Rights situation of older persons, the Executive Secretary noted that the UN delegation will have an opportunity to assess the progress made in the implementation of the Nigeria's obligations to ensure the enjoyment of all human rights of older persons.
The NHRC Boss told the UN expert that although Nigeria signed the protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights of older persons in Africa, the protocol has not been ratified. He added that the Commission in line with its mandate has been pushing for the ratification through advocacy to relevant stakeholders.
In her response, Ms. Mahler said the purpose of the visit to Nigeria is to assess the efforts of Nigeria in strengthening the protection of rights of the older persons and to promote best practices as well as identify gaps and make recommendations.
Speaking further, Mahler said that her meeting with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is key as it will provide an opportunity for interaction with experts on the field, adding that their stories and experiences will give her a holistic perspective on which to premise her report and make recommendations.
She applauded all the CSOs present for their efforts in ensuring that the rights of older persons are protected, especially those living in rural areas. In his remark, the Director Vulnerable Group Department, Mr. Dahiru Bobbo stated that Vulnerable Group Department was specifically created to cater for the vulnerable groups including the older persons.
He noted that everyone present at the meeting is driven by a passion for the aged and the challenges they encounter in Nigeria. He restated the need to mainstream human rights into all policies and programmes involving the older persons especially in face of cultural barriers, lack of safety net in terms of support system, lack of caregivers etc.
Representatives of Coalition of Societies for the Rights of Older Persons in Nigeria (COSROPIN) and the Secretary General, Rev. Victoria Onu called for the establishment of a home for the elderly, lamenting that gone are the days where children traditionally take care of their aged parents.
She stated that COSROPIN nurtured with the idea of addressing the issues facing older persons in Nigeria by getting the government and other stakeholders to come up with policies that will address the structural marginalization.
There was a unanimous call for the creation of suitable legal framework to protect the elderly, provision of health insurance to take care of their health issues, and freedom from cultural abuse which are associated with older persons.