The Federal government is moving with speed to implement the recently announced social investment palliative for poor Nigerians, to cushion the socio-economic pressure of the lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19 infection.
The Executive Director Dave Omokaro Foundation and President Gerontology Association of Nigeria (GERAN), Dr. Emem Omokaro in a statement on Wednesday expressed concern over poor Nigerians, who were not captured in the current operating database for ongoing cash transfer to vulnerable households are not left behind.
The Dave Omokaro Foundation and the Gerontology Association of Nigeria appreciated the Federal Government “for the interventions and to speak to the necessity of a well-thought out and all-inclusive implementation framework and stakeholder engagement mechanism.”
The National Policy on Social Protection provides the framework for the implementation of the current National Social Investment programs.
The groups noted that already in operation are Social Assistance Programs in form of unconditional cash transfers to poor households; the home grown School Feeding Program; the N-Power Initiative for youth; Trader Money; Farmer Money, etc.
“It would be therefore safe to assume, that these already existing programs would be expanded as special vehicle or mechanisms for the COVID-19 palliative treatment as announced by the President.
“The Dave Omokaro Foundation and the Gerontology Association of Nigeria express concern about how the government would ensure, that poor Nigerians, hitherto not captured in the current operating data base are not left behind”, the statement observed.
The bodies also want “discrimination on the bases of age, gender, disability, ethnicity, and location be checked and a proper mechanism that would guarantee the reach of those furthest from the first be firstly put in place.
“Specifically, in it’s current form, the implementation of the social protection programs has no social assistance or market Labor programs dedicated to poor senior citizens; the Senior citizens Act signed in 2018 still has no strategic implementation plan and therefore, there are no health care, economic empowerment or social pensions programs for senior citizens as legislated.
“There are obvious gaps in the existing Social Investment Program approach to cash transfers, which targets Poor Households, which leave older household members falling through the cracks.
“The current approach makes the assumption about non-discrimination of older persons and neglects the chronic health condition and the out of pocket expenditure on health care .
“Research has shown that less than 2% of older persons within the households receive the intended benefits.
“The N5,000 per month given for household empowerment with the prevailing ageist attitude towards older members of the household, minimizes, their chances of being direct recipients.
“It is on this note that the Dave Omokaro Foundation and Gerontology Association of Nigeria (GERAN) present a special appeal to the President and the Federal government apoaratu in charge of dispensing the palliatives, to consider older persons as a special category for the COVID- 19 social assistance.
“Information gathered from the experiences of other countries, has exposed the severe risk older persons, more than other demographics, face should they contract COVID-19 and also spot-lighted the health and socio-economic inequalities older persons encounter.
“More than ever before, government should take deliberate steps to check age discrimination by ensuring that the palliative measures target older person in the short term while instituting a dedicated Social pensions – (old age grant) for means tested poor and vulnerable older persons in Nigeria just as it does for children, youth and business owners”, the groups said.