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The Federal Government and the International Labour Organisation have called for more collaboration and partnerships to tackle 15 million children from child labour in Nigeria.

Dr Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, made the appeal at the National Children Conference in commemoration of the 2022 World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL), with theme “Universal Social Protection to end Child Labour’’, on Tuesday in Abuja.

Ngige recalled that in 2015, world leaders gathered and adopted the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Target 8.7 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.

He therefore said that the collaboration and partnerships was imperative amidst growing concerns of a global social crisis with alarming proportion.

According to him, global estimates have shown that child labour is on the rise; with an increase from 152 million to 160 million between 2016 and 2020.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has seen 19.6 per cent of all African children in child labour, and a possible nine per cent in hazardous work; this is in contrast to 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 industrial complexes and hazardous environments.

“Statistics revealed there are about 15 million child workers as at 2020, according to the ILO, with the UN warning that the absence of mitigating strategies could see an increase of children engaged in child labour by the end of 2022.

“This of course, will most certainly have massive implications in the near future. However, as a country, we take pride in stating that considerable efforts have been made in dealing with this menace,’’ he said.

He added that most notably the adoption and ratification of ILO Conventions 138 and 182 on Minimum Age and Worst forms of child labour, respectively.

He also said that others are 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.

He said that the implementation and enforcement of National Action Plan on Child Labour, Prohibition and Elimination of Forced Labour, Modern Slavery, and Human Trafficking in workplaces was spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

Ngige also said 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 five-year National Action Plan.

“In spite of all these, we require more collaboration and partnerships to confront the task ahead of us,’’ he said.

The minister, while speaking on the theme for the year called for more investments in social protection systems in order to create a strong protection base that will keep children away from child labour.

`According to him, as we reflect on the progress being made so far, let us also not lose sight of the importance of providing safety nets for children in vulnerable conditions.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 brought with it a chain reaction that caused devastating effects on the long-term development and safety of children worldwide. As a result, families were plunged into poverty and vulnerable conditions, among others.

“Also the households needing to employ various means for survival; this meant children were forced to go into the streets to bring income, exposing them to higher levels of vulnerability compared to adults,’’ he said.

He also noted that countries all over the world had to expand their social protection systems to adequately respond to the crisis, which could reduce the number of children in child labour.

He therefore said that President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration had done a lot in addressing some challenges fueling child labour in Nigeria.

“This include tackling poverty through Social Investment programmes such as Conditional Cash-transfer, Trader moni, N-power, Home Grown School Feeding,’’ he said.

He however commended the National Steering Committee and other stakeholders for putting together the forum for dialogue in the interest of the Nigerian children.

Also, Mrs Vanessa Phala, the ILO Country Director to Nigeria, said that in Nigeria, not less than 15 million children are engaged in child labour, and half of the number are bearing the heavy burden of hazardous work.

“I am pleased to tell you that the International Labour Organisation’s Dutch Government funded ACCEL Africa Project in Nigeria, in collaboration with the ILO’s tripartite partners, has intensified its social protection with a series of interventions in line with the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan.

“Others are the Nigeria’s National Action Plan, State Action Plans, and other roadmaps to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7- the total elimination of all forms of child labour and forced labour by 2025.

“In addition, over 100 pupils and students have received re-enrolment and school kit support to keep their dreams alive and prepare for a better future,’’ she said.

Phala also noted that these interventions have targeted identified vulnerable children, guardians and parents in focal communities of Ondo, Niger and Osun States, with impacts beyond geographical boundaries.

According to her, to sustain our interventions, governments, social partners, the media, others need to constantly engage children to ensure sustainable policies, and implement legal requirements for the elimination of child labour through monitoring.

“There also need to improve relevant policy frameworks and provide innovative solutions to address poverty which is the root cause of child labour and forced labour.

“We urge employers to honour the right of workers to social protection by constantly remitting the employer’s contribution to health protection, old age benefits, employment injury scheme, and other support systems,’’ she said

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