State by State? Social Pensions in Nigeria
In October 2011 Ekiti State in South-west Nigeria established a social pension targeted to any person over 65 and without a pension who has been resident in Ekiti for three years or more. In May 2012 20,000 older people were receiving this pension which entitles them to N5000 (US$33) a month. Following the signing of the Social Security Bill in Ekiti State this social pension now has a legal backing, which Governor Fayemi hopes will ensure its sustainability.
With the population of over 65s estimated at 120,000 in Ekiti there is still a long way to go to provide coverage to all the eligible population. The scale of the 2012 budget allocation for the pension means this will not be possible during this fiscal year.
Growing recognition of social pensions
Despite these challenges the introduction of this pension, the first of its kind in Nigeria, marks a major step forward in providing dignity and a minimum income to older people. With calls for social protection increasing in Nigeria this pension has garnered interest from local and national politicians. The State Commissioner for Labour, Productivity and Human Capital Development, observed that many states of the Federation are already approaching his ministry to learn and adopt the scheme.
As a signal of this interest, just nine months after the first payments were made in Ekiti its neighbour Osun State announced the implementation of a monthly pension of N10,000 (about US$66) to 1,602 older people who have been identified as the ‘most vulnerable’. It also includes the provision of some medical treatment for recipients. In terms of average income the transfer in Osun, at nearly 50 per cent of national average income, is the second most generous social pension in the world.
Information on the number of older people living in Osun is unavailable, but with an overall population higher than Ekiti state it can be assumed that it currently suffers from extremely low coverage. Additionally, delays in implementation meant that earlier this year 40 older people shortlisted to benefit from the scheme apparently died of starvation before they could receive their entitlement.
A new dawn?
Throughout Nigeria, the family still accounts for a large proportion of the support received by older people. However, with poverty levels remaining high and the cost of living rising such support is increasingly irregular and inadequate. The establishment of social pensions in Ekiti and Osun is positive news and may herald the dawn of healthy competition between states in the provision of social protection for its older people. This contributes to a growing trend in a variety of countries such as Mexico and India where the initiative of certain states has acted as a driver for bigger and better social pensions.
About the Author
John Dada is the director of Fantsuam Foundation, a Nigerian NGO which aims to 'eliminate poverty and disadvantage through integrated development programmes'.
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