The Organised Labour has called on the federal government to make the social protection programme a priority to eliminate child labour in the country.
The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), made this known in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Abuja to mark the World’s Day Against Child Labour.
This year’s theme is titled: “Universal Social Protection to End Child Labour’’.
NAN reports that the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Director-General, Guy Ryder, had said the COVID-19 pandemic had put millions at risk due to rising poverty, inequality and school closures.
Ryder said without decisive countermeasures by governments, the number of children in labour could rise to almost 169 million by end of 2022.
He, therefore, said social protection was one of the most powerful measures to prevent child labour and provide families with financial security in difficult times.
NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, said the Nigerian government needed to align with the global call for the elimination of child labour in the country.
According to Wabba, it will be a challenge for Nigeria and other developing countries if they do not align with the global agenda to achieve this aim.
“Why? Because in most cases the breadwinners have no means of sustaining their families, and therefore, children are used to supporting the family income, particularly in Africa.
“The shortage of social security cover also puts a lot of people in jeopardy, particularly the workers; and pensioners are not being paid as and when due.”
The NLC president noted that the country could not isolate itself from the global efforts to curb the increasing rate of child labour that had become a threat to all.
He said: “If we want to address the issue of insecurity and social vices, we must also cater for all our citizens, whether they are employed or jobless, young or old.
“We must be able to align ourselves with the global thinking and agenda, particularly to end child labour, and I think it is a priority.
“We must try to do our best as a country, we cannot use our predicament, our challenges as an excuse not to implement this very laudable agenda.
“Children need to be in school, they should not be on the streets; but here in Nigeria, many children are out of school, they are on the streets.”
Wabba advised the government to address the fundamental issues of development as a way of tackling some of these challenges that had continued to impede growth and development.
He said it had become a top agenda of the UN and ILO, that member countries must ensure conventions and recommendations were implemented.
“Every member country must implement some of those very laudable programmes, recommendations and treaties that we have signed.
“So, I am sure Nigeria will find a way of making this very profound recommendation and convention respected,’’ Wabba said.
Mrs Oyinkan Olasanoye, National Deputy President, TUC also called on the government to improve welfare and social security programmes for all citizens, as it would help to reduce child labour in the country.
According to Olasanoye, parents that do not have social security plans to fall back on, will not be able to take proper care of any child.
“This will lead to the child becoming an “income generator’’ for the family.
“Also, when we talk about free education in Nigeria, we must talk about the educational rights of the child, and how many of these have been implemented.