THE Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has given the International Labour Organisation, ILO, insight into the reasons behind the upsurge in cases of child labour in the country.
Consequently, NLC is pleading for global assistance to address the challenges, explaining that “poverty and socio-economic dispossession are at the heart of the dominant and spiking state of the incidence of child and forced labour in Nigeria.
In an intervention by Labour movement in Nigeria in the ongoing 111th Session of the International Labour Conference, Head of NLC’s International Relations, Uche Ekwe, told ILO’s committee that it agreed with the committee’s submission that the country’s interventions have failed to address the menace.
He said: “Insecurity remains a severe challenge militating against the preservation of the environment for the development of children in schools and playgrounds. In North-East Nigeria, the activities of criminal and violent groups have persisted. As the experts have rightly noted, these groups have continued to utilise and exploit children as ‘fighters,’ cannon fodders and kidnapped victims to extract ransoms to finance their violent operations.
“Our country would need support to degrade, displace and defeat these elements. Further, it would be desirable for the Nigerian state to be able to effectively extract children involved in violent activities and victims of security-challenged environments. The government must also be able to effectively rehabilitate and reintegrate these children into a stable, safe and healthy environment.
“Given the traumatic and mental-joggling experience these children are subjected and exposed to, it is pertinent that psychological and mental health counselling and assistance should be provided in doses and frequency necessary to heal and help them reintegrate into their communities.
“As organised labour and parents, we genuinely worry about where children continue to be enslaved, utilised in forced and bonded labour and trafficked within, through and outside our country. We are distraught with the legal and administrative systems that allow perpetrators, handlers and sponsors to get away with very light sanctions. This Committee must encourage, support and work with the Nigerian government with the inclusion of social partners to review and revamp existing pieces of legislation.
“As a show of our commitment to being part of the solution to this endemic crisis, the Nigeria Labour Congress pledges to be a member of the Alliance 8.7 to be more active in the fight against all forms of child labour in Nigeria.
“The state of labour inspection in Nigeria has remained lax and almost non-existent, which is also partly responsible for the cases of the growing incidence of child labour and the exploitation of children.
“In the past, this Committee has made the point about the need to improve the labour inspection regime in Nigeria through a well-defined plan to improve systems, personnel, materials and schedules in a scalable manner. We ask that this request be reiterated with urgency and the addition of the provision of a roadmap for implementation.
“In all sincerity, poverty and socio-economic dispossession are at the heart of the dominant and spiking state of the incidence of child and forced labour in Nigeria. These issues exacerbate in ways that the worst forms of child labour are increasingly becoming normalised. The 2022 Multi-dimensional Poverty Index survey reveals that 133 million people live in different poverty stages, representing a staggering 63 per cent of Nigeria’s population.
“It is also disturbing that out of Nigeria’s 216 million population, 20 million children are disadvantaged due to a lack of access to education. UNESCO has confirmed that the country now has 20 million out-of-school children. We are worried that governments at all levels have made lightweight commitments to investment in education.
“World Bank figures show that Nigeria’s public investment in education fell from 7.5 per cent in 2019 to 5.1 per cent in 2022. Several State Governments are sacking teachers, and most are withholding and delaying the payment of salaries, and wage freeze imposed for several years. As organised labour, we have continued to advocate for the defeat of Illicit Financial Flow activities of tax avoidance, evasion and dodging as part of the interventions to improve internal and alternative resource mobilisation possibilities, which will increase governments’ chances of financing public services such as education and public health provisions.
“Poverty is forcing many children to be absent, skip classes, and drop out after successful enrolment. The situation is worse for the girl-child, who often is recruited by the family as an additional hand in the family business rather than be sent to school. This kind of choice entrenches and sustains feminisation and generational poverty.
“In the past eight years and counting, we have continued to witness the worsening of families’ economic situation on account of successive governments’ voodoo fiscal and macroeconomic policies. Household poverty mirrors child labour in Nigeria.
“We urge this Committee to assist the government in formulating and implementing socio-economic policies that will effectively target and address child poverty and child labour. The development and deployment of an expanded and enriched social protection provision programme can help.”
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