The 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), has revealed that the north-central region has the highest rate of child labour in Nigeria, with 56.8 percent of children in the region involved in one sort of labour or another.
This is followed by north-west with 55.1 percent, while the south-south, south-east and south-west have 48.7 percent, 46.6 percent, and 38 percent, of their children involved in child labour, respectively.
Overall, the survey showed that 50.8 percent of Nigerian children between the ages five and 17 are involved in child labour.
Some of these children are made to work under conditions that are considered hazardous, and again the north-central accounted for the highest number with 49.6 percent.
The north-west has 41.9 percent; south-south 37.9 percent, south-east 36.1 percent, north-east 34.1 percent and south-west 25.4 percent.
Child labour is defined as any work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and deprives them of opportunities for schooling and development.
“The high level of diverse and tedious jobs that children execute in dangerous circumstances is particularly worrying,” says Maureen Zubie-Okolo, a Monitoring and Evaluation expert with UNICEF.
“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.
“Traditionally, children have worked with their families, but today children are forced to work for their own and their family’s survival.
“The money earned by child family members has become a significant part of poor families’ income.”
Zubbie-Okolo stressed that there was an urgent need for government to show more commitment to tackling the menace of child labour and the first step should be to enforce the child rights act.
“These children who work suffer from fatigue, irregular attendance at school, lack of comprehension and motivation, improper socialisation, exposure to risk of sexual abuse, high likelihood of being involved in crime,” she said.
“These children which are mostly young girls, should be in school but instead, they are in the market hawking food items because their families need the extra income.
“The high level of diverse and tedious jobs that children execute in dangerous circumstances is particularly worrying.”
According to Zubbie-Okolo, the major causes of child labour include poverty, rapid urbanisation, breakdown in extended family affiliations, rate of high school drop-out and lack of enforcement of legal instruments meant to protect children.
The NBS survey was in partnership with UNICEF and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).