The federal government has expressed concern over the high incidence of child labour in the country, warning that it would most certainly have massive implications in the near future.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, gave this warning in a keynote address at the National Children Conference in Abuja to commemorate the 2022 World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL).
Ngige recalled that in 2015 world leaders gathered and adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Target 8.7 in form of a call to end child labour in all its forms by 2025.
According to him, the call sought to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour and modern day slavery, and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
The said global estimates had shown that child labour was on the increase from 152 million to 160 million between 2016 and 2020.
He said Sub-Saharan Africa recorded 19.6 per cent of all African children in child labour, and a possible nine percent in harzadous work, in contrast to the 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 the industrial complexes, and harzadous environments.
“Statistics revealed that there are about 15 million child workers in Nigeria as at 2020, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), with the United Nations (UN) warning that the absence of mitigating strategies could see an increase in children engaged in Child Labour by the end of 2022. This, of course, will certainly have massive implications in the near future,” he said.
He said Nigeria has made considerable efforts in dealing with the menace, most notably, the adoption and ratification of ILO Conventions 138 and 182 on minimum age and worst forms of child labour respectively.
He also cited 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 Day Slavery and Human Trafficking in workplaces, spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Labour.
“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 Plan. In spite of all these, we require more collaborations and partnerships to confront the task ahead of us,” he said.
The minister described this year’s theme, Universal Social Protection to End Child Labour, as essentially a call for more investment in social protection systems in order to create a strong protection base that would help keep children away from the scourge.
He said the outbreak of COVID-19 and its attendant chain reaction, caused devastating effects on the long-term development and safety of children worldwide.
He said the pandemic plunged families into poverty and vulnerable conditions, which made them to employ various means of survival, including forcing children into the street to earn income and thereby, exposing them to higher vulnerability than adults.
He said countries all over the world had to expand their social protection systems to adequately respond to the COVID-19 crisis, which could reduce number of children in child labour.
He said the Buhari-administration has done so much in addressing insecurity and other challenges fuelling child labour in the country, through the social investment programmes, such as conditional cash transfer, N-power and trader monie, among others.
Also speaking, the First Lady Mrs Aisha Muhammadu Buhari advocated for 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.
She said while the event was organised to primarily celebrate 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.
In a goodwill message, ILO Country Director for Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Venessa Phala said the organisation is working with social partners and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to eradicate child labour in the country.
Goodwill messages were delivered by representatives of ministers and other dignitaries at the event.