• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Eliminating child labour in Nigeria: Difficult but possible task

Eliminating child labour in Nigeria: Difficult but possible task

In Nigeria, many children are involved in different forms of child labour, such as domestic staff, street hawking, and sexual exploitation among others, which stopped them from achieving their potentials.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says that 24,673,485 children, accounting for 39.2 per cent of all children aged five to 17 years old in Nigeria are in child labour.

The NBS said this in its Nigeria Child Labour and Forced Labour Survey Report for 2022, which was released in Abuja.

Read also: Over 14.3 million Nigerian youngsters are stuck in harmful child labour

The Bureau said child labour referred to the work for which children are either too young or that may be physically or psychologically injurious to their health and wellbeing.

The report said 31,756,302 children, accounting for 50.5 per cent of all children aged five to 17 years old in Nigeria were engaged in economic activities.

It said 14,390,353 children accounting for 22.9 per cent of overall children were involved in hazardous work.

The NBS said the North-West zone had the highest number of children in child labour with 6,407,102 while those involved in hazardous work are 3,266,728 in number.

“However, in terms of the percentage of children in child labour and hazardous work, the South-East region has the highest prevalence of children involved in child labour at 49.9 per cent’’, the agency said.

The report showed that in the 5-14 age bracket, 77.6 per cent of children attended school, 46.5 per cent were working and 11.2 per cent were exclusively working.

“Children in urban areas are substantially less likely to be working only and more likely to attend school only than their rural counterparts. There are few differences between boys and girls”, it said.

It said in the 15-17 age groups, more than two-thirds of children were working and 21.9 per cent were exclusively working.

“Children living in rural areas are 12 percentage points more likely to be working and 17 percentage points less likely to attend school than children living in urban areas”, NBS said.

The report said children from households with more educated household heads were less likely to be in child labour.

It showed that 43.2 per cent of children from households where the head had reached primary or lower education were in child labour.

“Whereas only 28.4 per cent of children from households where the heads have a tertiary education are in child labour”, it said.

The report said children from female-headed households were more likely to be in child labour than children living in male-headed households.

“About 42.5 per cent of children from female-headed households are in child labour compared to 38.7 per cent of children from male-headed households,” the NBS said.

Read also: We need political will to eliminate child labour, ILO, stakeholders tell govt

On the state with highest incidence of child labour nationwide, Cross River, however, dismissed as untrue a survey report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that it had the highest incidence of child labour in the country.

The NBS had stated in the report that of the 24.6 million children in child labour in Nigeria, Cross River recorded the highest incidence of 67.4 per cent, followed by Yobe with 62.6 per cent.

In the survey entitled: “Nigeria Child Labour Survey 2022’’, the NBS rated Lagos State has having the lowest incidence of 8.9 per cent.

The NBS described child labour as any work that robbed children less than 18 years of age of their childhood, potential, and dignity or had deleterious impact on their physical and mental development.

It stated that its survey showed that children between the ages of five years and 17 years were engaged in economic activities that amounted to child labour in Nigeria.

But not every stakeholder believes in the NBS report.

Dismissing the report, Cross River Commissioner for Information, Mr Erasmus Ekpang, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Calabar that the figures released did not represent the true position in Cross River.

He said the figure for Cross River was not tenable since government had put measures in place since assumption of office in May 2023 to discourage child labour and to uplift vulnerable segments of the population.

He explained that the measures put in place centred on health, education, agriculture and other empowerment initiatives.

Ekpang said that government had also put in place programmes that empowered women economically and discouraged them from sending their children and wards out as labourers.

“Women are empowered to take care of themselves and their families. Youths are also not left out of these policies and programmes.

“The initiatives are mostly in the areas of agriculture and small-scale enterprises.

“We also initiated programmes like school feeding to retain every child in school,’’ he said.

Ekpang advised the NBS to revisit its 2022 figures and make amends.

Read also: North-west worst hit as child forced labour passes 24m in Nigeria — NBS

Meanwhile, the Bureau of International Labour Affairs says in 2022, that Nigeria made moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

It said five additional governors signed the Child Rights Act, which provides free and compulsory education for children and prohibits the use of children in illicit activities and by non-state armed groups.

It added that the government also hired over 180 labour inspectors and increased inspections from 10,526 in 2021 to 17,026 in 2022.

‘’In addition, the government established 11 community child labor monitoring committees, which oversee child labor projects and outreach efforts at the local level.

‘’Finally, the government adopted a new national action plan on human trafficking and conducted a national child labor survey in order to better inform their child labor policies’’, it said.

It says however, that children in Nigeria are still vulnerable to the worst forms of child labour, including in commercial sexual exploitation and use in armed conflict, as well as quarrying granite and artisanal mining.

For Sarah Ige, a mother of three and a trader in Dawaki, FCT, Abuja, deprivation and lack of access to education could force parents to engage their children a child labour.

Sarah said like some other children at 12 years she was sent out of her home as a maid to a family because her parent could not afford her education.

She said in the process of being a maid, she was assaulted and deprived of so many things as a child.

“I had wanted to go to school but could not achieve that dream because my parents were poor.

“For my children, I don’t want them to go through what I passed through; I will do my best to make sure they are educated, so that they can move higher in life’’, she said.

Similarly, Musa Afeez, a painter at Wuru in FCT, Abuja, said he was always sent on street hawking by his parents while his mates were at school.

Afeez, who said the act of street hawking disturbed him mentally and physically, urged governments to make concerted efforts to stop the practice to make for a brighter future for the country.

To further address the challenge, there is the need for the Federal Government and its development partners to strengthen their cooperation in eliminating child labour in agriculture and ensure work environment devoid of exploitation.

Vanessa Phala, ILO Country Director for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Liaison Office for ECOWAS highlights the urgent need for more efforts in that regard.

“Nearly 23 per cent of all children are estimated to be in child labour. Nigeria has its fair share of this figure.

“The agriculture sector accounts for 70 per cent of children in child labour (112 million) followed by 20 per cent in services (31.4 million) and 10 per cent in industry (16.5 million).

“Nearly 28 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 years and 35 per cent of children aged 12 to 14 years in child labour are out of school.

“The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (14 per cent) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (5 per cent),” she said this at a workshop on the Action against Child Labour in Agriculture in West Africa (ACLAWA) project in Abuja.

She explained that the ACLAWA project, funded by US Department of Labour, aim at supporting ECOWAS commission implement the regional plan for the elimination of child labour.

“ACLAWA intends to address causes of child labour through the provision of social benefits.

“It also intends to support the social protection scheme by providing benefits and decent work opportunities to vulnerable households with children in or at high risk of child labour.

“We believe that this strategy is crucial for sustaining the gains made from other child labour elimination interventions,” she said.

The challenge is already receiving attention at the highest policy making level in Nigeria.

“We are aware that child labour remains a significant challenge in Nigeria.

“It does not only deprive children of their childhood, education, health and future prospects but also undermines the country’s economic development said Nkiruka Onyejeocha, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment.

The civil society says it is ready to escalate cooperation with the government in order to address the challenge posed by child labour in the country.

According to Loretta Ogboro-Okor, Founder Loretta Health Initiative (LHI), though it is a difficult task to eliminate child labour in Nigeria it can be accomplished through joint efforts.

According her, child labour has cost innocent lives, disruption of childhood, and stolen future from many children globally.

“Let us work together to create a world where children can grow up in peace, dignity, and hope for a brighter tomorrow’’, she said.


Abiemwense Moru writes from News Agency of Nigeria