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Nigeria and a world without child labour

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In the global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7, the world committed to ending all forms of child labour by 2025.
 
With four years away from 2025, the last two decades have seen 94 million fewer children in child labour. 

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However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the remarkable accomplishment is now under threat. 
 
Experts are of the view that the pandemic is likely to reverse progress and make the global target to end child labour harder to achieve.
 
They argued that these risks require urgent action to prevent and mitigate the tolls the pandemic takes on children and their families. 
 
With the adoption of the United Nations (UN) Resolution 72/327 in 2017, the year 2021 was declared the ‘’International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour ’’ by UN member States.
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The impact of the actions to accelerate child labour elimination in 2021 is expected to help fast-track progress towards achieving the SDG 8.7 target to eliminate child labour by 2025.
 
The Guardian gathered the actions would create momentum that would drive positive change towards the year 2025.
   
Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ILO Convention 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour and ILO Convention 138 on the Minimum Age of Employment recognise the right of every child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to interfere with the child’s education or harm the child’s health.
   
On what this means for Africa, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, in an interview on the occasion of the launch of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, last month, said about 19.6 per cent or one-fifth of all African children are in child labour with nine per cent of African children being in hazardous work. 
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The ILO, in collaboration with the Alliance 8.7 global partnership, had launched the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, to encourage legislative and practical actions to eradicate child labour globally.
 
In absolute terms, she said 72.1 million African children are estimated to be in child labour; including 31.5 million in hazardous work.
  
From available statistics, she hinted that child labour increased in sub-Saharan Africa between 2012 and 2016, in contrast to continued progress elsewhere in the world.
 
This, according to her, is despite the targeted policies implemented by African governments to combat child labour, which shows that continued business as usual will not address the fundamental development deficit.
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To address the challenge, she revealed that stakeholders in Africa have been developing relevant approaches and strategic frameworks to accelerate actions against child labour and paving the way to ending child labour by 2025.
 
She said Nigeria among others that African nations have identified some priority milestones to achieve this year to make some important progress in the continent.
    
She urged governments, workers’ and employers organisations, civil society, academic institutions, private sector, international organisations, regional organisations and even individuals to propose specific actions, that contribute to ending child labour.
 
“I call on you to participate in eliminating child labour in our communities, our workplaces, our households, by consuming responsibly, raising funds, supporting governments’ actions and telling the world through their action pledges,” she added.
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Indeed, child labour reinforces inter-generational poverty, threatens national economies and undercuts rights guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
 
It is the combined product of many factors, such as poverty, social norms condoning it, lack of decent work opportunities for adults and adolescents, migration, and emergencies. 
 
It is not only a cause but also a consequence of social inequities reinforced by discrimination.
 
According to labour experts, effective action against child labour must address the full range of vulnerabilities that children face and require the implementation of policies and programmes that can contribute to the elimination of child labour through sustainable solutions to address its root causes.
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President of Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN), Aderemi Adegboyega, said with the body’s code of conduct, it does not engage workers below the age of 18 years. 
 
He submitted that the government is trying its best to reduce the incidence of child labour, but cited the poverty level in the country, as one of the factors that are entrenching child labour.
 
He argued that some parents are the ones forcing their children into labour by directly asking them to work on their farms, or asking them to fend for themselves to make income, describing it as “unfair”, as it delays the child’s mental development.
 
With these, he opined that labour legislation be seriously enforced to make sure that such incidences are reduced to the barest minimum, noting that this can only work when the inspection arm of the labour ministry is up to the task.
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“On-street trading, and begging, the government can on its own enforce that kids shouldn’t engage in street trading. The regulatory agencies should go to where these goods originate and tell the manufacturers that they don’t want to see them on the streets. You cannot arrest the people selling it only.
 
“Also, there should be domestic employment standards for apprentices and domestic staff,” he said.
 
Similarly, the Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale, said eliminating child labour in the country is a work in progress, as relevant laws are still being tinkered with to ensure they are eliminated.
 
He stressed the need for the government to enforce proper sanctions, which is still lacking, and the need to set up machinery for legislative input as well as increasing the capacity of labour inspectors to enforce compliance.
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He said despite Nigeria’s ratification of the ILO’s Child Labour Convention 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, and Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, there was still a high prevalence of exploitation in the informal agricultural and mining sectors.
 
He said: “No nation can afford to mortgage its future leaders through unwholesome activities such as child labour. We frown at any work which deprives children of their childhood, their potential, their dignity and which is harmful to their physical and mental development.

“While poverty and unemployment are major drivers of child labour in Nigeria, made worse especially with the advent of COVID-19, it is still not an excuse to interfere with their education or expose them to forms of labour suited for adults.”
 
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had warned that the current pandemic and resulting lockdowns should not mean any compromise in protecting children from hazardous and exploitative labour. 

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Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, noted that where children are exploited, upholding the rule of law was essential in guaranteeing their right to justice.
 
She stated that with poverty comes child labour as households use every available means to survive, adding that while prospects vary by country, a one percentage point rise in poverty leads to at least a 0.7 percentage point increase in child labour.
 
Director-General, ILO, Guy Ryder, said the body is a partner of Alliance 8.7, a global partnership that aims to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour around the world, as outlined in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
 
He added that The International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour will prepare the ground for the V Global Conference on Child Labour (VGC) that will take place in South Africa in 2022, where stakeholders will share experiences and make additional commitments towards ending child labour in all its forms by 2025, and forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery by 2030.

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