The United States has commended and pledged support to Nigeria’s efforts in tackling child labour and promoting decent work.
The International Relations Officer (Africa Adviser) in the United States Department of Labour, Olaoluwa “Ola” Abina made the pledge while on a working visit to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, today in Abuja.
“Our coming here is to boost the revitalization of labour inspection and occupational safety in Nigeria. We want to meet the stakeholders to find out where gap exists, so as to work together to design a better operational approach from our findings ,” Olaoluwa said while stating his mission to the Honourable Minister of labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige.
He recalled the strong representation made by the Sen. Ngige for technical assistance at the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Conference organized by the United States Labour Department in September 2016, adding that he was in Nigeria to assess the situation.
Also speaking, the United States Embassy Labour Attaché in Nigeria, Mirna Torres who accompanied Olaoluwa on the visit, noted that there was a significant decrease in the rate of child labour in Nigeria and commended Sen. Ngige for championing the crusade.
In his response, Sen. Ngige said it was a clear administrative policy of the Buhari administration thatdecent work cannot be effectively promoted without tackling the scourge of child labour, hence the deliberate modeling of its Social Investment Programme to essentially benefit school children through a Home Grown School Feeding Programme, intended to make school attractive and assist parents who withdraw kids from school out of poverty.
“We are planning to extend this programme of at least one nutritious feeding a day, to students in junior secondary schools, don’t forget that under our UBEC Prograeme, education is free up to junior secondary school is free, ” he said .
“We are leaving no stone unturned in eliminating child labour as a fundamental step in promoting decent work. You cannot talk of decent work when you have under-aged children dropping out of school and joining the workforce in mining, agriculture and others. Even in agriculture where our tradition permits children to assist parents in the farm, there must be a limit.”
Dwelling on other measures the Federal Government has taken in this direction, the Minister said work was in progress on National Child Labour Policy to discourage out-of-school phenomenon and set penalties for defaulting parents.
He added, “Our labour laws are being amended to be explicit on the age a Nigerian is not eligible to work or be in the work force. This is currently before the National Assembly. We also have regulations that stimulate occupational safety for workers as well as prohibit discrimination of any form against persons living with HIV aids.
He further said that the Ministry of Labour has undergone immense rejuvenation since assuming office in November 2015, setting a drastic departure in terms of infrastructure and manpower base from what he inherited.
“We have refurbished our departments, especially the core Labour departments of Inspectorate as well as Occupational Safety. We replaced moribund working tools with new ones, brought new vehicles to enhance inspection, and upgraded our manpower base by recruiting professionals into our Federal, Eight zonal and thirty-six States and the F.C.T offices. In 2017, within the latitude of the nation’s economic realities, we recruited one hundred and eighty persons and getting another one hundred and fifty in 2018.”
The Minister further reiterated his request at the AGOA conference in September 2016 for the United States to provide technical and possibly, material assistance to Nigeria for an efficient labour inspection, occupational safety and health and in the elimination of child labou. “I also made similar appeal when the Labour Attaché at the United States Embassy visited in October 201. I am making it once more and sincerely believe it is high time the U.S acceded to this request which it readily grants to other African countries,” Ngige said.