Shortly after being sworn into office before a mammoth crowd in Ado-Ekiti and a global audience on October 16, 2010 as the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, in his inaugural speech promised to implement a Social Security Scheme for the aged.
The scheme aims at taking care of the elderly, particularly those who do not have children who can fend for them in the twilight of their years to enable them live more comfortable life and have a sense of belonging in the society.
Many people thought the promise was one of what is now referred to as “political statements” made on inauguration days which only fizzle out as the new chief executive settles down into his cozy office to exercise the mandate received at the polls.
Cynics have every right to doubt the hitherto novel Social Security Scheme for the Aged because people hardly believe political office holders owing to failed promises of the past and also because the scheme has not been implemented anywhere before.
Determined to ensure that it becomes a reality, Fayemi set up a committee led by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Ganiyu Owolabi to work out modalities for the implementation of the scheme.
The scheme was intended to take care of indigent elderly citizens who are 65 years and above and not benefiting from any pension scheme.
While going round the state campaigning for the votes of the electorate in the 2007 governorship election and the 2009 rerun governorship election, Governor Fayemi had promised to tackle poverty and improve the standard of living of Ekiti people.
He was so much concerned that many of the aged citizens of the state who are too old to be engaged in rigorous economic activities have nobody to take care of them.
Despite the limited financial resources available to the state, Fayemi has succeeded in putting smiles on the faces of no fewer than 20,000 elderly citizens of Ekiti who now receive monthly stipends of N5,000 each.
To some people, N5,000 may be a small amount of money but to the beneficiaries who are predominantly rural, it will more than satisfy their basic needs.
When the enumeration/screening exercise for the first batch of 10,000 senior citizens was conducted, many eligible candidates failed to show interest because they believed “such a thing is a near impossibility in Nigeria” where the elderly citizens are abandoned and left to wallow in poverty until death comes calling.
The Social Security Scheme for the aged in Ekiti State formally took off in Ise-Ekiti, the headquarters of Ise/Orun Local Government Area on October 25, 2011 where Governor Fayemi distributed cheques to beneficiaries.
The scheme is being supervised by the State Ministry of Labour, Productivity and Human Capital Development which was created by Governor Fayemi to generate more jobs for the unemployed and improve the living standards of the less privileged.
Following the acceptability and popularity the scheme now enjoys in the state, there was a demand from other indigent elderly citizens for them to be incorporated.
It was in an effort to address the non-inclusion of many indigent elderly citizens that Governor Fayemi gave a directive that a second enumeration and screening exercise be carried where another batch of 10,000 beneficiaries were enlisted in the scheme.
To make the enumeration and screening exercise a success, the Ministry held consultations with the local government caretaker committee chairmen, traditional rulers and ward development officers in the 16 council areas.
A workshop was also held for 400 members of the Ekiti State Youth Volunteer Corps who served as enumerators for the exercise.
The Ministry conducted the enumeration and screening of the second batch of 10,000 between February 21 and February 25 in furtherance of the implementation of the scheme.
With the completion of the enumeration and screening of another batch of 10,000 indigent elderly citizens, the list of beneficiaries of the Fayemi-led administration’s Social Security Scheme has now risen to 20,000.
To make the identification of the senior citizens enjoying the scheme easy and speedy, the Ministry of Labour, Productivity and Human Capital Development has commenced the process of procuring identity cards for the beneficiaries.
In order to ensure that the scheme outlive the present administration, the Executive arm of the Ekiti State Government forwarded a bill to the House of Assembly to give legal backing to the Social Security Scheme. Governor Fayemi, last month accented to the bill after its passage by the state Assembly.
The Social Security Scheme for the Aged, the first of its kind not only in Nigeria but in the West Africa is a landmark legacy of the Fayemi-led administration in Ekiti State.
It is an irony that it is being implemented by a state that is at the rung of the ladder of allocation from the Federation Account. The Federa government and a few other states, apparently moved by the success of the Ekiti State Social security for the elderly citizens, are making moves to have similar scheme for the elderly citizens.
It is heart warming to note that no fewer than 20,000 old people in Ekiti State now look forward to their monthly stipends of N5,000. This coming in the administration’s first 500 days is a cheery news.
Basic needs of the aged, especially those living in far-flung rural communities, are now being met with the stipends received under the scheme apart from the fact that citizens who are 65 years and above are among the segment of the Ekiti population enjoying the Free Health Programmed of the administration.
One of the beneficiaries, Mrs. Felicia Jegede, an octogenarian, expressed surprise when she collected her stipend for the first time at the official flag-off of the scheme in Ise-Ekiti saying she thought it would turn out to be a hoax.
An enthusiastic Mrs. Jegede said, “This government is the best thing to have happened to we, the elderly, in this state. We will continue to pray for the governor to succeed in all his endeavours.
“He has brought laughter to the mouths of the elders in this state and God will continue to bless him as he is a blessing to us. I have kept my voter’s card so that I can vote for him in future elections.”
The Social Security Scheme for the Aged is a promise that has been delivered by Governor Fayemi in making poverty history in the state and he has raised the bar of governance to another level in Nigeria.
*Ogunmola, who is Special Assistant (Media) to the Governor, writes from Ado-Ekiti
Last modified: April 12, 2012