Enforcement of relevant laws banning child labour and street hawking in Nigeria is one of the major keys to protect the right of every child within every community in Nigeria.
Although, the child rights acts was passed in 2003 by Nigeria and adopted into law in about 24 states of the federation, the challenges of its implementation is still being experienced in many states. This was the major issue of discussion at a recent roundtable on “Child Labour: The Menace of Street Hawking” by Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCE) in Ilorin, Kwara State capital.
Others Civil society organizations against child trafficking, child abuse and child labour in their separate opinion say Government should make the child right law popular in terms of making continuous awareness within state and local communities. .
Speaking at the sideline of a round-table on Child Labour: The Menace of Street Hawking “, the focal person for the center, Professor Albert Bamidele said there was no ”evidence of any law protecting child rights” particularly child labour and hawking in the society.
“if you say people should not hawk and they are hawking that is to say there is no law when it is not enforced and that is why we are holding this round table to increase awareness”, he said . He also decried the non- enforcement of the child right law by those states that have signed them into law.
Setting the tone for the discussion , the Vice-Chancellor, Al Hikmah University, Professor Ibrahim said “Resulting effects of cumulative years of neglect and bad governance manifested as child labour, street hawking and several other forms of child abuse”, this position was also re-echoed by several other participants.
According to Professor Ibrahim, “The roles that fathers play as the head of households, working to guarantee better future for their children, is the role of government in the society”. He, however, lamented that “our leaders have not been up and doing and the effect is what we are all seeing manifesting as militancy, terrorism, killings, armed robbery etc ”, asking,“ What you expect from multitude of children whose parents are jobless for years?”
Lamenting further, the Vice-Chancellor said “My father struggled to build a house that I cannot live in. My children say my house is outdated for them. Yet, old paradigm has not changed. We still embezzle to build mansions that the next generation won’t need. Money meant to expand the economy, create jobs, and expand our commonwealth is cornered for other uses and we hope to develop”.
Other Discussants at the round table also recalled that the National Policy on Education promised free, qualitative and compulsory education for each Nigerian child from age 0-16 years and noted that some states like Kaduna even went further to provide free meals to encourage indigent students to come to school.
They asked, “Why is the policy not being implemented faithfully”?, other discussants also requested traditional institutions educationists, students, lecturers, market women leaders, all of whom are represented to demand full implementation of the education policy from their governments.
Children across the world irrespective of their racial background are born with fundamental freedom and inherent acts of all human beings. It is based on this premise that state governments in Nigeria are pushing for the enactment of its legislations so as to create strategies that will assist them to ensure the protection and realisation of the rights of the child especially those under the age of eighteen.
According to a child rights activist, Mr Henry Ogundele, “the non enforcement of the child right law in most states in Nigeria has further made many unprotected children vulnerable to rape, inducement and other forms of abuses which they are subjected to while hawking or doing other menial jobs on the street.
Ogundele maintained that evidence available indicates that the government and other relevant authorities were not committed to combating the menace of child labour despite its grievous implication on the upbringing of children, particularly the girl child.
Child labour remains a major source of concern in Nigeria, in spite of legislative measures. The United Nations International Children’s Fund (UN) defines Child labour as work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and deprives them of opportunities for schooling and development.
According to the International Labour Organization, the number of working children under the age of 14 in Nigeria is estimated at 15 million. The high level of diverse and tedious jobs that children execute in dangerous circumstances is particularly worrying as these jobs include being street vendors, beggars, car washers or watchers and shoe shiners. Others work as apprentice mechanics, hairdressers and bus conductors while a large number work as domestic servants and farm hands.
“Child labour has been with us for a very long time, and most times in Nigeria parents will say it is just children assisting the parents, but it is really much more than that. It is so pathetic to the extent that you see children working in dangerous environment, children who are supposed to be in school are taken to work on farmland. Recently in Kwara state, the immigration intercepted a large number of children working on farmland when they are supposed to be in school. If you go out there on the street of Ilorin in Ipata ,you see a lot of children hustling on the street which exposes them to a lot of danger and increase the cycle of porverty” ,Olufemi Oyedeji’s exact words during an exclusive interview I had with him. He is the Coordinator of Civil society organization against Child trafficking, child labour and Abuse
Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) informed that about 50.8 per cent of Nigerian children, ages between 5 and 17, are involved in child labour. The NBS conducted the survey in conjunction with other partners, including the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)
Mrs. Maureen Zubie-Okolo, UNICEF’s Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, in an interview with newsmen said the figure was alarming and worrisome in spite of all legislation.
Analysing the survey, Zubie-Okolo identified North-Central region as having the highest burden of child labour of 56.8 per cent followed by North-West accounting for 55.1 per cent. South- South has 48.7 per cent; South-East 46.6 per cent, and South-West 38 per cent, respectively.
Frowning at the number of children working in hazardous conditions in the country, Reverend Sam Ajayi the proprietor of Tor Omo Re school with over thirty one years experience in child upbringing differentiates between child labour and child works.
“When we talk about child labour, I want us to look at some things. Those children sent out, it may be the only source of income for the parents because I remember that while growing up, my parents will tell us to sell local pomades for them to bring in income, so you see that it is more of a tradition. But the one I hate most is when you tell children to go and hawk in the sun with heavy loads on their head and doing the work of an adult.”
On the way forward Ajayi said “If the government will make education sincerely free and not paying lip service ,many parents will enroll their children in school because aside child work ,some of these parents do not have a tangible source of income.