The Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige has reaffirmed the government’s commitment towards ensuring that suitable and adequate shelter, food, old age care, pension, sick benefits, welfare of the disabled and reasonable national minimum living wage is provided for all citizens.
The Minister, who was ably represented by the Honourable Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Prof. Stephen Ocheni, made the disclosure when the delegates from the United Nations Department of Social Affairs (UNSA), to Nigeria paid him a courtesy visit in his office in Abuja, today.
According to the Minister, “occupational diseases that emanate at work before or after retirement is one of the reasons why the aged are vulnerable. Regrettably they are not covered under the current National Health Insurance Scheme. The Ministry is now promoting universal health coverage in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal which is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” He noted that “employment injury, survivorship and invalidity benefits are covered by Nigeria Social Trust Fund and that retired public servants enjoy sustainable benefits through the contributory pension scheme.”
Especially bothered by the plight of the aged, the Minister lamented that there remain formidable challenges which needs to be addressed in areas such as, Social security protection which is essentially limited to the formal sector, while the aged, particularly in the informal economy, are not covered at all.
Ngige stressed that the Nation will promote the advocacy, to clearly reflect social security as a fundamental human right, and noted that the country needs credible social security data for sustainable socio-economic planning and development in line with global best practices.
The Minister recommended support in building the capacity of staff/technical towards addressing challenges such as, strengthening of efforts towards the extension of comprehensive and sustainable social security protection coverage; improved focus on older generation; protecting them, improving their wellbeing and further harnessing their potential for socio-economic development.
The Minister emphasized that empowering the elderly through cooperatives as a means of attaining socio-economic development and reaching out to the aged in rural areas with a view to providing them with basic income security. This will be in line with social development goal (SDG) 1.3 which provides that “member state shall implement National Appropriate Social Protection System and measures for all including floors and by 2030 achieve sustainable coverage of the poor and the vulnerable” the Minister enthused.
In his welcome address, the Honourable Minister of State, Prof. Stephen Ocheni, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Bolaji Adebiyi, disclosed that “it is unacceptable that workers on reaching the age of sixty and above are left with only their old age benefits or nothing despite that this class of citizens have a wealth of experience and potentials which could be tapped into for development in their communities and indeed the country as a whole.”
He revealed that “empowering senior citizens/retirees can be explored as an avenue for national growth and development” He stressed.
Earlier in her remarks, the leader of the delegation from the United Nations Department of Social Affairs (UNSA) Rosemary Lane said that they are in the Ministry to know about improvement in the social security system, policies and specific programmes being executed and to make recommendations on the way forward.