…..Say 15 million children engage in child labour in Nigeria.
By AKOR SYLVESTER-Abuja
Not less than 15 million children are engaged in child labour, and half of this number is bearing the heavy burden of hazardous work, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the federal government have stated.
This is just as the world labour body hinted that 1.5 billion children worldwide, between the ages of 0-14, receive no family or child cash benefits and more than 160 million children are still engaged in child labour.
The Director General of ILO Guy Ryder who stated this at the Second National Children’s Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Commemoration of World Day Against Child Labour in Abuja yesterday said”going by the 2020 Global Estimates of Child Labour, 160 million girls and boys will remain in child labour, with half of that number in hazardous work if we do not listen and act now”.
Represented at the event by the Director of the ILO Abuja Country Office for Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, and Liaison office for ECOWAS, the ILO boss said ” although most children engaged in child labour are found in Agriculture (I.e 112 million) worldwide, there is evidence to show that the recruitment of child soldiers continues; and that from 2016-2020, child labour increased by 8.9 million, among children aged 5-11.
“Beyond the statistics, child labour is a real and present danger to everyone”.
According to ILO Director General, “Last year, as we launched the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour (IYECL) in Nigeria, our children, through their representatives at the first National Children’s Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour – the National Children’s Parliament, shared their expectations for the days, months, and indeed the years to come.
“Among these requests were:
The eradication of hawking during school hours and a passage of the Labour Standard Bill criminalizing the list of hazardous child labour
“Social Intervention Programmes to vulnerable households
The inclusion of child labour issues in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of private businesses
“Child representation and participation,
among other recommendations”.
The ILO boss told the gathering that since the request, the International Labour Organization’s Dutch Government funded ACCEL Africa Project in Nigeria, in collaboration with the ILO’s tripartite partners, has intensified its social protection, child participation and school to work transition with a series of interventions in line with the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan, Nigeria’s National Action Plan, State Action Plans, and other roadmaps to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7- the total elimination of all forms of child labour and forced labour by 2025.
“In addition, over 1,400 pupils and students have received re-enrolment and school kit support to keep their dreams alive and prepare for a better future.
“These interventions have targeted identified vulnerable children, guardians and parents in our focal communities of Ondo, Niger and Osun States, with impacts beyond geographical boundaries.
“From the start of the ACCEL Africa Project in May 2019, we have improved policy, legal and institutional frameworks to address child labour in Cocoa and Artisanal Gold Mining sectors using innovative and evidence-based approaches that address the root causes of child labour in supply chains.
“Parents and care givers have been included in our expanding safety nets to ensure that their children attain at least the basic compulsory education level- Basic 9.
“Also, 881 beneficiaries – 450 in Niger State, 402 in Ondo State and 29 in Osun State, have been supported with equipment to start their businesses after receiving trainings on the ILO SYB module and only children within the minimum working age were trained on vocational skills.
“To sustain our interventions, Governments, social partners, the Media, academia, NGOs, donors and trade unions need to constantly engage children to ensure sustainable policies, and implement legal requirements for the elimination of child labour through monitoring.
“To ensure enabling environment for the elimination of child labour there is the need to improve relevant policy frameworks and provide innovative solutions to address poverty which is the root cause of child labour and forced labour”, the ILO DG noted.
The Director General urged employers to honour the right of workers to social protection by constantly remitting the employer’s contribution to health protection, old age benefits, employment injury scheme, and other support systems.
The ILO boss also requested an increase in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to focus on reducing the vulnerability of children, increased funding for existing interventions, ensuring continuity in executing policies related to child labour, supporting school to work transition, and encouraging child participation especially of children within the legal working age.
In her remark, the first lady of Nigeria, Aisha Bihari said Child labour remains a major threat to child development in Nigeria, in spite of legislative measures taken by the government at various levels to curb it.
She government in its efforts to reduce incidence of child labour, is implementing vigorously the National Children School Feeding Programme which is the major plank of the battle to fight Child Labour, increasing children school enrolment and preventing children dropping out of schools.
The first lady said such effort included the adoption of the child rights law and other protective laws by governments at the state level as also playing a critical role in militating against child labour.
“I have to admit that there are a lot of activities in this sector which have led to considerable difference in the area of awareness creation among parents, children and even schools.
“My Future Assured as you know has done very much in this regard especially through advocacy. I call on us all to do more because we are getting more victims and also the circumstances leading to child labour still subsist.
“The eradication of child labour however requires a systemic approach and effective policies to strengthen social protection systems, education, and decent work opportunities for parents and caregivers to address the conditions that drive child labour.
“While today’s event stands primarily to celebrate these children, it also provides the avenue to call for increased investment in social protection systems and schemes to establish solid social protection floors and protect children from child labour.
“It is in this regard that the government has put in place social security programmes as highlighted by earlier speakers to dissuade all shades of child labour in addition to diversifying the economy through agricultural revolution and strengthening the social security system to reverse poverty as a predisposing factor in this light.
“All these initiatives of the federal government I believe sets us on the path to eradicating the menace of child labour in our communities and on the path to achieving sustainable development goal”, she noted.
Delivering an address, the minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige said “Global estimates have shown that child labour is on the rise; with an increase from 152 million to 160 million between 2016 and 2020. Sub-Saharan Africa has seen 19.6 per cent of all African children in Child Labour, and a possible 9 per cent in hazardous work; this is in contrast to continued progress being made elsewhere in the world.
“In Nigeria, Child Labour has become a scourge. Several children find themselves on the streets, forced to make a living, with others employed in industrial complexes, and hazardous environments. Statistics revealed there are about 15 million child workers as at 2020, according to the ILO, with the UN warning that the absence of mitigating strategies could see an increase of children engaged in Child Labour by the end of 2022. This of course, will most certainly have massive implications in the near future.
“However, as a country, we take pride in stating that considerable efforts have been made in dealing with this menace. Most notably the adoption and ratification of ILO Conventions 138 and 182 on Minimum Age and Worst forms of Child Labour respectively; the passage of the Child Rights Act into law to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with adoption by about 30 state governments; the implementation and enforcement of National Action Plan on Child Labour, Prohibition and Elimination of Forced Labour, Modern Slavery, and Human Trafficking in workplaces spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment. Also the National Steering Committee, as well as State Steering Committees, and Desk Officers on Child Labour were established at all levels of government and institutional levels to translate the provisions of the 5-year National Action Plan. In spite of all these, we require more collaboration and partnerships to confront the task ahead of us”.
Ngige said this year’s theme tagged ‘Universal Social Protection to End Child Labour’ was essentially a call for more investments in social protection systems in order to create a strong protection base that will keep children away from Child Labour.
He added that the outbreak of COVID-19 brought with it a chain reaction that caused devastating effects on the long-term development and safety of children worldwide. As a result, families were plunged into poverty and vulnerable conditions, with households needing to employ various means for survival; this meant children were forced to go into the streets to bring income, exposing them to higher levels of vulnerability compared to adults.