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Nigeria seeks collaboration with U.S. to tackle child labour

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The Federal Government has solicited technical assistance from the United States (U.S.), in its bid to eliminate the menace of child labour in Nigeria.Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, made the call in Abuja, when he received in audience, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard.He said the U.S. could assist the Nigerian Government in establishing schools and clinics in places where child labour is endemic, noting that such assistance would boost government’s efforts in tackling the malaise.

The Minister also called for logistics support, such as the provision of vehicles to assist in labour inspections across the states, and also urged the U.S. government to put in place empowerment programmes in those places with propensity for child labour to counter poverty, which is the cause of such practices.
He said: “Nigeria has been making a lot of effort; and we need support in the measures we have in place to tackle child labour.”

Ngige noted that Government has been tackling the issues of child labour through the adoption of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Child Labour and Forced Labour, and has put up a national steering committee on Child Labour, as well as state steering committees. He further noted that Nigeria had also adopted the Child Rights Act.

“As a country, we have adopted the ILO Convention on Child Labour, Forced Labour; and the Child Rights Act. We have also set up a National Steering Committee on the provision of Child Labour, Human Trafficking and Slavery, and established State Steering Committees,” he said.

The Minister maintained that child and illegal labour feed on poverty and illiteracy, and disclosed that government has put in place some social investment programmes such as school feeding, and free education to attract children to school and out of child labour.He added that other efforts of government to keep children off the street and child labour include putting up national laws for compulsory school attendance by children with attendant punitive measures to tackle parents and guardians who run afoul of that law.

The Minister added: “The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act makes it compulsory for children to attend school, and it has a punitive side to it that compels parents to enrol their children in school.”Ngige also said the government was in the process of upgrading its Skill Acquisition Certificate to international standard to enable the holders fit in professionally anywhere in the world.He however pointed out that Nigerian professionals resident in the United States add a lot of value to the U.S. economy as they are highly skilled and conscientious workers.

The U.S. Ambassador was on a familiarisation visit to the Ministry to discuss labour-related issues.In a related development, the Minister has urged member countries of the African Regional Labour Centre (ARLAC), to adopt active policies and programmes to tackle unemployment and poverty to check the consequential social tension and violent crimes.

Speaking at the 46th session of the ARLAC, themed, “Strategic Objective On Social Protection,” held recently in Kampala, Uganda, Ngige said poverty reduction would easily be achieved by harnessing the efforts of various agencies and departments charged with the strategic objective of social protection.“Africa is replete with tales of worrisome level of child labour, human trafficking and exploitation, irregular migration, youth restiveness, terrorism, armed banditry and arson among others.  Addressing this as the theme of this high level symposium could not have therefore come at a more auspicious time,” he said. 

To achieve this, he called for faithful implementation of the pro-people development model, as articulated by the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Guy Ryder, during the International Youth Conference in Abuja last year.

The Minister also noted that notwithstanding the challenges, Nigeria has increased focal investment in education and skills acquisition to contain the mismatch between educational skills and demand of the labour market.“We are working to align the prerequisites of the labour market with the capacity of the labour force in a way to create synergy and ease responsiveness to innovations. Our Ministry of Labour and Employment is currently spearheading the shift of emphasis from white collar job to the growing opportunities that abound in the blue collar market in line with the changing world of work,” Ngige highlighted.

He equally commended the government of Ethiopia for the supportive and coordinating role it has been playing for the Africa group since last year, when Nigeria has been in the saddle as the chair of the Government Group of the ILO Governing Board.He called for support for Nigeria and other African countries already nominated for positions in the ILO Governing Board in the election scheduled for June this year.

 


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