From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

A study released on Thursday has shown that over 24 million Nigerian children, aged 5 to 17 are involved in child labour.

The survey was conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The shocking figures revealed that 24,673,485 of the child population, representing 39.2% is embroiled in child labour with a nearly equal distribution among boys, 39.6% and girls 38.8%.

Of these figures, 30.0% of the child workers are found in urban settings while 44.8% are in rural areas.

Further breakdown of the data showed that 31,756,302 of Nigeria’s child population, representing 50.5 are in economic activity while 14, 390,353 (22.9%) are in hazardous work.

Regionally, the North-West geopolitical zone bears the highest brunt in child labour with 6,407,102 and 3,266,728 in hazardous work.

The South East has the highest prevalence of children involved in child labour, affecting 49.9% of its child population while North-east has 49.4%, North-central 43.1%, South-south 43.1% and South-west with 27.5%.

Details of the report also indicated variations that sex, education level and income of the household head play key roles in the prevalence of child labour.

According to the report, while children from female-headed households are more likely to be in child labour than children living in male-headed households, children from households with more educated household heads are less likely to be in child labour. Also, children from the wealthiest quintile of households are less likely to be in child labour than children from households in the bottom quintiles.

In the report, forced labour headline figures revealed that 5.2 individuals per thousand are subjected to forced labour in their current employment, drawn from a total of 617,503 individuals identified in 2022.

The sectors most affected include services, excluding domestic work 36.9% and agriculture 36.2%.

Out of the total number of individuals subjected to forced labour, 451,300 are male, while 166,203 are female.

In terms of age distribution, the majority of those affected are between the ages of 30-49, accounting for 317,052 individuals. The 18-29 age bracket comprises 191,418 individuals, also, 99,391 individuals in forced labour are aged 50 and above.

The residential settings of these individuals revealed that 270,545 reside in urban areas, while a larger portion, 346,958 are located in rural settings.

Speaking at the event, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkweiruka Onyejeocha, said the purpose of the survey is to improve information on forced labour and child labour through data collection which will help to inform policy direction and interventions towards the elimination of child labour and forced labour in Nigeria.

According to Onyejeocha, child labour is a global menace that has proved to potentially hinder the development of children, leading to lifelong physical and psychological damage, keeping children out of school, and thereby perpetuating poverty across generations.

To address the challenge, the Minister noted that Nigeria has made giant strides through the ratification of the ILO Conventions 138 on the minimum age for work, 182 on the worst forms of child labour, 29 and 105 on the abolition of forced labour, among others.

“In line with the conventions, section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended prohibits forced and compulsory labour for any employee and also defines penalty fees, fines, imprisonment, or a combination of these sanctions for any employer found guilty;

“The review and validation of all relevant laws, regulations and policies that are key and instrumental to the elimination of child labour, the National Policy on Child Labour and the National Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labour for an implementation period of 5 years; the Compendium of Legal Framework on the elimination of Child Labour and Protection of Children in Nigeria;

“The review of the Labour Standard Bill to mainstream child labour, with special consideration on the adoption of 15 years as the minimum age for work/employment;

“The establishment and coordination of the National Steering Committee on Child Labour and the State Steering Committees on Child Labour across the 36 states of the federation and FCT;” she added.