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The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has again reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to protect and promote the rights of older persons, with a particular focus on accessibility, infrastructure, and habitat, including transport and housing.

This statement was made by the Executive Secretary of the Commission Dr. Tony Ojukwu OFR, SAN at the 14th session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Representatives from all countries, alongside about 35 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and 70 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from around the globe, participated in this crucial meeting. The NHRC has recommended taking further steps towards an internationally binding document for the protection of the rights of older persons, urging that this recommendation be forwarded to the UN General Assembly for prompt consideration.

DR. Ojukwu told the gathering that Nigeria has established robust mechanisms for addressing and remedying violations of older persons' rights. According to him, Under Section 6 of the its mandate, the NHRC is empowered to handle all matters related to the promotion and protection of human rights, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and various international and regional human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a party. Specifically, he said subsection 6(j) authorizes the Commission to receive and investigate complaints regarding human rights violations and make necessary determinations.

To support older persons in seeking redress, the Chief Human Rights Officer in Nigeria further told participants at the OEWGA that the NHRC has created a dedicated department for vulnerable groups, which includes older persons. He said the department which is staffed by specially trained personnel, is tasked with receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints from older persons and other vulnerable populations.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria further stated that Nigeria's judicial system, with courts across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, is equipped to hear civil, criminal, and human rights cases, including those related to the rights of older persons.

He said significant progress has been made in gathering data and statistics at the national level on the rights of older persons to accessibility, infrastructure, and habitat. “While the Nigeria Living Standards Survey (NLSS) 2019, conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), included general indicators on accessibility and infrastructure, the National Senior Citizens Centre (established by the National Senior Citizens Centre Act, 2017) is working towards a more focused approach” he revealed.

He stressed the plan to implement a multi-indicator survey specifically for older persons to better address their needs in collaboration with the NBS and National Population Commission.

The Executive Secretary concluded his statement by strongly urging for the immediate commencement of drafting a UN Convention dedicated to the rights of older persons.

“We urge the Open-Ended Working Group to recommend that the General Assembly request the Human Rights Council to act on the recommendations contained in decision 14/1” he stressed.

“These recommendations should be presented to the General Assembly as a matter of urgency. Any further actions must ensure the full, effective, and meaningful participation of older persons, their representative organizations, Civil Society Organizations, and National Human Rights Institutions” he added.