By Victor Uzoho
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called on buyers of Nigerian commodities to be mindful of the impact of their patronage on the use of child labour on gold mines and cocoa farms, as well as the consequences on social stability and collective development.
Specifically, the ILO Country Director for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and the Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Vanessa Phala, made the call in Abuja, during the inaugural National Children’s Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour (NCCECL), themed: “Act Now: End Child Labour”.
The conference was in commemoration of the 2021 World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL) in Nigeria, with support from the Netherlands Government-funded ILO ACCEL Africa Project and Tripartite partners.
Phala warned that if Nigeria does not quicken its pace to eliminate child labour, the country may not succeed in meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 8.7, which seeks the elimination of all forms of child labour by 2025.
“Let us ask ourselves, are we empowering the unfair use of children in cocoa farms, on gold mines, at home, in factories, in marketplaces, and in society generally?… are we a part of the cure or the disease?,” she asked.
She noted that a joint ILO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) research released on June 10, puts the number of children trapped in child labour in 2020 at 160 million, with 92 million in Africa.
She explained that this was a surge from the 152 million recorded in 2016, signalling a potential rise over a short period, owing to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the ILO ACCEL Africa Project is focused on accelerating action against child labour in the cocoa and Artisanal Gold Mining (ASGM) supply chains in Ondo and Niger states specifically, where child labour is prevalent through production and supply chains.
This debut NCCECL was coordinated by members of the Nigerian Children’s Parliament, children from public and private schools across Nigeria, ex-child labour victims, and children currently trapped in labour, with support from the ILO and its tripartite partners.
The partners include the Nigeria Employer’s Consultative Association (NECA), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and other government agencies.
In a communiqué, Speaker of the FCT Children’s Parliament, Chukwuma Chioma, called for the ratification of ILO Convention 189 on domestic work, domestication of Recommendation 201 into national laws to protect children from servitude, implementation of the Action Pledges by ILO’s tripartite partners and the immediate passage of the Labour Standard Bill, which criminalises the List of Hazardous Child Labour.
She also called for the upward review of the national minimum wage; inclusive, compulsory, and universal basic education for every Nigerian child; provision of Safe Shelters in each of Nigeria’s 774 Local Government Areas, review of the child adoption policy in consideration of the high number of orphans, and domestication and full implementation of the Child Rights Act 2003 by the remaining 11 states.
Speaking on behalf of the Federal Government, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr. Yerima Tarfa, responded to the concerns by advocating climate action, increased reporting of child labour cases to law enforcement agencies, and the domestication/implementation of the Child Rights Act 2003 in every state.
Yerima also cited the Labour Ministry’s planned review of Nigeria’s labour laws, an increase in the number of labour officers and factory officers to monitor workspaces and schools, provision of free basic education, school feeding programme and other poverty alleviation schemes as some of the Federal Government’s efforts to eliminate child labour.