The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called on the Nigerian government to increase investment in social protection through improved fiscal space and legal framework to make the right to social protection a reality for all Nigerians including children.
The ILO also called for the establishment of universal child and family benefit and extension of social protection to the informal and rural economy.
ILO Country Director in charge of Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, Sieria Leone and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Vanessa Phala, made this call at the media engagement held at the United Nations House, Abuja in commemoration of the 2022 World Day Against Child Labour.
Phala urther noted that governments across the world face a serious situation, as 1.5 billion children worldwide, aged 0-14, receive no family or child cash benefits while more than 160 million children, representing one in 10 children aged five to 17, are still engaged in child labour.
She said, “Although in Nigeria, social protection has grown to take a prominent role in various national and state-level policy documents, development plans and budgetary allocations, coverage remains low.
“The latest ILO Social Security Inquiry performed in collaboration with the government of Nigeria in 2019 showed that only 12 per cent of children benefit from social protection through the Home Grown School Feeding programme, with no income support in the form of child or family benefit.
“Working with our tripartite partners and a wider range of stakeholders on the Dutch Government -funded ACCEL Africa Project has shown us first hand, the plight of vulnerable Nigerian children pressured by economic realities to work and support their families especially after huge job losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In our cocoa producing and artisanal gold mining communities, we have observed the exposure of children to drug abuse, sexual exploitation and other social vices that could put children in conflict with the law and restrict their growth. These children are often required to participate extensively in manual farming and mining at the expense of their health, education, social and emotional development.”
“For the gold mining communities especially, the presence of arms and ammunition in the scramble for resource control is shrinking safe spaces, exposing children to violence, and fuelling a cycle of crime by providing a steady pool of recruits for criminals from one generation to the next.”
She then charged, “We must realise that if we do not set and sustain the agenda on the dangers of child labour, stakeholders may delay in taking urgent and active steps required to stop it, thereby prolonging concerns on insecurity over extended periods.
“You must take the lead in the global coordinated campaign to eliminate all forms of child labour by consistently informing and educating the public on prevalence of child labour and the various interventions of the government and other non-state stakeholders.
“It is also important that you consistently monitor our production and supply chains, investigate sharp practices and report ethically, considering the best interest of the child as your contribution to social protection and the campaign against child labour.
“In addition, we must strengthen the capacity of children within the legal working age, rehabilitate existing school structures and provide learning tools or alternatives especially for children who require skills training in the informal sector.
“Trade unions should give focus to the participation of children within the legal working age (children from the ages of 15-17 years). They should have a voice and participate in decision making affecting their services and well-being at work.
“We are partnering with the government of Nigeria and its social partners to strengthen the legal framework for social protection through capacity building on national legal drafters on developing a National Social Protection Harmonisation Bill, revision of the recently validated revised Social Protection Policy, extension of social protection to the informal economy.
“To sustain an enabling environment for the elimination of child labour, the ACCEL Africa Project facilitated the development and validation of Nigeria’s National Policy and National Action Plan on the elimination of child labour and forced labour in April 2021, with the support of the Minister of Labour and Employment in collaboration with the Minister for Women Affairs and members of the National Steering Committee on the elimination of child Labour in Nigeria.
“In addition, six states (Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Niger, and Lagos) were supported to adapt the National Action Plan on the elimination of child labour to the contexts of child labour in their states.
“In a couple of months, through the ACCEL Africa Project, we are scheduled to distribute starter packs to over 800 men and women entrepreneurs trained and mentored on the ILO Start Your Business (SYB) module, to help them bring their business ideas to life, develop themselves and impact their communities.
“All participants were drawn from our project communities in Ondo and Niger States, where awareness on the dangers of child labour is leading to behaviourial change among community members.
“This is in addition to interventions reaching over 1,409 children with various prevention, protection, and withdrawal services. These children have been supported with some health and educational services, such as enrollment or re-enrollment in school, school bags, school sandals, notebooks, textbooks, sandals, and psychosocial support to those unfairly exposed to child labour and traumatised.
“We have also trained and certified 62 teachers, care givers and other professionals to Support Children’s Rights through Education, Arts, and the Media using the ILO’s SCREAM module and together with a team of intellectuals in the University of Ibadan, we are developing a curriculum on the elimination of child labour.
“We have conducted several studies on the prevalence of child labour, knowledge attitude and practices survey on employers in Ondo, Osun, Lagos and Niger States; child labour guidance tool for business in Nigeria; rapid assessment on existence of code of conduct on child labour and Level of compliance by organisations in the private sector; ituation analysis of the prevalence of child labour in the cocoa and ASGM sectors; providing guidance for project interventions.
“Working with Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and Child and Youth Protection Foundation, the ILO has supported the compilation and simplification of existing national laws and policies on child labour and child protection.
“In addition, the capacity of over 600 national and state level stakeholders has been built to ensure the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) in the cocoa and ASGM sectors, with training workshops for Agricultural Extension Officers, Mine Inspectors, Labour Officers, employers, journalists, staff of the National Orientation Agency, members of the National Steering Committee on the elimination of child labour, and media practitioners.
“Being a major focus of the project, child participation been consistent, as exemplified in the maiden edition of the National Children’s Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour which held on the June 16, 2021, with a participation of over 9,000 children who joined the meeting in-person and virtually.
“Clearly, a lot is being done to ensure that Nigeria meets its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 8.7 but there’s a lot more work to do.”