By Ikenna Osuoha
Retired AVM Robert Ekezie, the Chairman, Retired Army, Navy and Air Force Officers (RANAO), has lauded the contributions of Coalition of Societies for the Rights of Older Persons in Nigeria (COSROPIN) and other civil societies which resulted to the establishment of National Senior Citizens Centre (NSCC).
Ekezie said this at the National Senior Citizens Centre Forum Maiden Dialogue in Abuja with senior citizens.
He said that the consistent advocacy by COSROPIN and other non-state actors should be sustained in order to achieve the desired result of the new centre.
The RANAO chairman, who said that over dependence on government would be disastrous, called for engagement and mobilisation of people’s factor to reach the remote areas.
“Government alone cannot deliver even 30 per cent of the needs of senior citizens nor meet the needs of those of them who are in the remote areas.
“These solutions lie in the mobilisation of people’s factor which government lacks the speed needed.
“As it stands today, the National Senior Citizens Centre was as result of the advocacy by civil society groups especially Coalition of Societies for the Rights of Older Persons in Nigeria (COSROPIN),” he said.
He reiterated the imperative of continuous engagement with existing structures as COSROPIN and other non-state actors for a strengthened and adequate grassroot reaches to remote areas.
Ekezie however commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the inauguration of the NSCC, as well as the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs for their commitment to affairs of senior citizens.
He explained that the solutions of all the problems of senior citizens could not be made by the federal government because resources were lean and over stretched, hence government’s partnership with private sector, even borrowing to execute the country’s infrastructural development.
According to him, evidence has shown that leaving everything in the hands of government is not suitable as the proposed programme of direct dialogue of government with senior citizens without non-state actors may lead to failure.
Ekezie advised the centre to avoid over dependency of people on government because issues like too much protocol might slow their actions.
He reiterated the need for mobilisation of foot soldiers who did the running around linking the centre to senior citizens particularly those in the remote areas.
“These foot soldiers should be encouraged. Women Development Centre and NEMA are case studies of what works and what is expected.
“Women Development Centre as agency of government has no structures, no liabilities as far as direct mobilisation, project development and delivery is concerned, instead they use the available coalition called National Council for Women Societies.
“This senior citizens centre should borrow a leaf from already existing agencies partnerships and do the needful for the benefit of senior citizens.”
He said that Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government understood the value of working closely with non-state actors who they use to interface with people in rural areas instead of attempting going directly to senior citizens as they are planning to.
Ekezie however emphasised the need of leaving no one behind aimed at organising different non-state actors to affect others.
Dr Emem Omokaro, the Director General of NSCC, assured the senior citizens of a blissful future.
Omakoro said that issues affecting the senior citizens would no longer be given discretional attention but mandatory one.