Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has linked the scourge of child labour to pervasive poverty in the African continent. 

The Minister however noted that the current administration in Nigeria has adopted multi-pronged approach to fight child labour through reduction in poverty index, despite teething challenges. 

He disclosed this Wednesday, while addressing the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour, holding in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. 

The Minister who co-chaired the day’s panel, said Nigeria faced numerous challenges in the fight against Child Labour but was doing everything possible to stem the social malaise.

According to him, the challenges in the fight to eradicate Child Labour include low revenue earnings due to fall in crude oil prices and production, over dependence on imported goods/ items and low agricultural production and the consequential economic recession.

He attributed the worsening scenario in Nigeria to COVID-19 pandemic which stagnated economic activities all over the world, pushing the country into a second economic recession in 2020.

Ngige said, “even before the present administration, poverty had crept into Nigeria’s socio-economic firmament and accentuated Child Labour, with many non-working age persons taking to farming and artisanal mining.

“Also, the educational curriculum not properly developed to give the right and proper skills in the secondary and tertiary institutions, compounded matters. 

“High rate of school dropout among children also became a major issue and a catchment pool for Child Labour. Decent jobs for young persons gave way to informal, hazardous jobs, such as illegal refining of petroleum products which has claimed scores of lives with attendant pollution, working poor in heavy construction industry, as well as ill-equipped persons handling dangerous chemicals in industries.”

To reverse poverty, which he said was at the root of child labour, the Minister stated that the Federal Government has rolled out various measures including the diversification of the economy through agriculture revolution – provision of fertilisers, grants to farmers, quick yield seedlings and agricultural extension.

Other measures, he said, are the stoppage of unnecessary importation of commodities, such as rice, potato and beans and blockage of revenue leakages. 

According to him, government was boosting Technical and Vocational Training Education, through the restructuring of the entire secondary and tertiary education curricular. 

He explained that the government introduced free education at primary and junior secondary level, as well as school feeding programme to tackle low school enrolment. 

“We equally have adhoc employment schemes, like the National Youth Service Corps Scheme (NYSC) for all graduates of tertiary institutions under 30 years, N- POWER programme for one million unemployed persons, and social security programmes like conditional cash transfer (CCT), Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), survival funds and enterprenuership loans. The establishment of Occupational and Safety Health Commission is in progress.”

He added that though these efforts were yielding fruits, the Nigerian Government still needed technical support from the ILO.

The event was declared open on Sunday by the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa.

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