From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

A study released on Thursday, has shown that 24 million Nigerian children, aged five 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 figures revealed that  24,673,485 of the child population, representing 39.2 per cent is engaged in child labour with a nearly equal distribution among boys, 39.6 per cent  and girls, 38.8 per cent.

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

A further breakdown of the data showed that 31,756,302 of Nigeria’s child population, representing 50.5 per cent are engaged in economic activities, while 14, 390,353 (22.9 per cent) are carrying out hazardous work.

Regionally, the North-West geopolitical zone, has the highest rate of child labour with 6,407,102 and 3,266,728 engaged in hazardous work.

Similarly, the South-East has the highest prevalence of children involved in child labour, affecting 49.9 per cent of its child population while North-East has 49.4 per cent, North-Central 43.1 per cent, South-South 43.1 per cent and South-West with 27.5 per cent.

Details of the report also indicate that sex, education level and income of the household head plays a 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, the 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, 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.

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

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, 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, amongst 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.