Senate seeks succour for aged persons

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Sanni Onogu, Abuja

A Bill which seeks to provide certain rights and privileges for elderly persons in the country, on Tuesday scaled second reading in the Senate.

The Bill however imposed a N2 million fine on organizations and N200, 000 on individuals or 6 months imprisonment or both for discriminating against aged persons.

The Bill titled: “Older persons (rights and privileges) Bill 2019” was sponsored by Senator Francis Onyewuchi (Imo East).

Onyewuchi in his lead debate said that the Bill seeks to provide for the health, economic reliefs and protection for old persons social and civil rights.

He said: “Elderly or Older Persons are generally defined according to a range of characteristics including: chronological age, change in social role and changes in functional abilities. Most developed countries of the world have accepted the chronological age of 65 years as a definition of ‘elderly’ or older person.

“While this definition is somewhat arbitrary, it is many times associated with the age at which one can begin to receive pension benefits.

“The fast-growing number of older adults during the last few decades have impacted significantly on the political, economic, and social functions of societies in both industrialized and developing regions.

“According to the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the proportion of older persons aged 60 years and above make up 12.3% of the global population, and by 2050 that proportion will rise to almost 22%.

“Like any other country in sub-Saharan African, Nigeria’s elderly is increasing rapidly.

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“In Nigeria, those aged 65 years and above (the elderly) make up 3.1% or 5.9 million of the total population of 191 million, which in simple numbers represents an increase of 600,000 during the five-year period of 2012-2017.

“Some of the challenges facing the elderly in Nigeria include challenges of retirement, ageism, and social isolation among others.

“Indeed, an ageing population poses numerous social and economic challenges, but the right set of policies can equip society to address these challenges in time.”

According to Onyewuchi, “Older Persons shall have the right to social protection, including income security without discrimination on the basis of age or gender.

“Discrimination against Older Persons on the basis of age is prohibited.

“Older Persons shall have the right to adequate standard of living, including the right to food, water, clothing and housing, and to improve their living conditions without discrimination on the basis of age.

“Older Persons shall have the right to enjoy the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health and long term care without discrimination on the basis of age, including public health, preventive medicine, palliative care and rehabilitation.

“An Older Person shall have right to safe and smooth movement on streets, walkways, gatherings and physical structures free of unreasonable physical contact from other persons.

“An Older Person shall have the right to enjoy preferential seating positions on taxis, buses, trains and other means of public transport. Older Persons shall be given flrst consideration in queues and public spaces; and as much as possible they should be attended to outside the queue.”

The Bill also ensures older persons are safe-guarded from all situations of risks, including situations of violence, emergencies and the occurrences of natural disasters.

The Bill also said that the Federal Ministry of Information shall make provisions for promotion of orientation and awareness regarding “the rights and respect for the inherent dignity of Older Persons.”

He said that Older Persons shall be included in every National Action Programme on Income Generation of the State or the Federal Government.

Most Senators in their contribution supported the Bill.

The Bill was approved for second reading by Senators when it was put to voice vote by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.