Cablegate: Nigeria: Status of Child Labor Provisions For
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002857
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ETRD PHUM SOCI NI EING
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: STATUS OF CHILD LABOR PROVISIONS FOR
TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT ACT PROVISIONS
REF: STATE 182648
1. Due to severe staffing shortages, particularly the
prolonged vacancy of Post's Labor officer position, Embassy
Abuja and Consulate Lagos are unable to meet reftel request
for "detailed and comprehensive information" on the status of
child labor in Nigeria. The Regional Labor officer departed
Post in July and this critical position remains unfilled.
Many other vacancies have further weakened our capacity to
collect and interpret information.
2. Indicator A: Laws and regulations proscribing the worst
forms of child labor
-- Nigeria has agreed in principle to ratify ILO Conventions
182, Worst Form of Child Labor, and 138, Minimum Age for
Employment. However, ratification will require approval by
the Federal Executive Council (equivalent of the U.S.
Cabinet) and a consenting vote by the National Assembly.
-- The 1974 Labor Decree strictly prohibits employment of
children under 15 years old in commerce and industry, and
permits child labor only for home-based agricultural or
domestic work. The law states that children may not be
employed in agricultural or domestic work more than 8 hours
per day. The decree allows the apprenticeship of youths at
age 13 under specific protective conditions.
-- The 1974 Labor Decree and the 1999 Constitution prohibit
forced or compulsory labor, a prohibition that extends to
children, although they are not mentioned specifically in the
-- There is draft legislation now before the National
Assembly that would make trafficking in persons a crime.
3. Indicator B: Implementation and enforcement of laws
-- Trafficking in children as indentured servants or for
criminal activities such as prostitution is a problem and
enforcement is ineffective. According to ILO reports, there
is an active, extensive trade in child laborers, some of whom
are exported to Cameroon, Gabon, Benin and Equatorial Guinea
to work in agricultural enterprises. Other children are
coerced into prostitution. Authorities have identified trade
routes for traffickers that wind through Katsina and Sokoto
to the Middle East and East Africa. The eastern part of
Nigeria and southern states such as Cross Rivers and Akwa
Ibom have been the loci of trafficking of children for labor.
Nigeria also remains a destination for the trafficking of
Togolese children. An ILO report on child trafficking in
West Africa identified Nigeria as a source, destination and
transit area for child trafficking within the region.
-- There is evidence of trafficking of Nigerian children to
the United States and Europe, mostly for the reunification of
children with undocumented parents in destination countries.
-- Nigerian police report that, due to economic pressures,
the families of girls and women often condone their entry
into the sex trade. During the past year, at least one
documented case of trafficking in children was reported in
Lagos, though incidents of trafficking in Lagos and other
major Nigerian cities are suspected to be commonplace.
-- A rare and high-profile arrest of a suspected trafficker
occurred in mid-2001. Bisi Dan Musa, a prominent Lagos
businesswoman and wife of a former Presidential aspirant, was
arrested and charged with 19 counts of &child stealing8
(kidnapping) and slave dealing after 16 children, between one
and four years old, were found in her custody.
-- In August, 33 Nigerian women and children intercepted in
Conakry, Guinea, were repatriated to Nigeria following the
personal intervention of President Obasanjo. As of this
writing, the Nigerian Government is planning to seek the
extradition of 15 Nigerian traffickers arrested by Guinea in
connection with the 33 women and girls.
-- Basic economic incentives often underlie child
trafficking. Generally, families who employ children as
domestic servants (a widespread practice in West Africa) also
pay their school fees. Child traffickers receive a monthly
payment from the employer, part of which is remitted to the
parents of the indentured child servant. Traffickers take
advantage of a cultural tradition of child fostering, under
which it is acceptable to send a child to live and work with
a more prosperous family in return for educational and
4. Indicator C: Institutional mechanisms to investigate and
-- The absence of large numbers of documented reports of
trafficking is believed to result, in part, from ineffective
enforcement mechanisms, lack of resources, and weak
government commitment. The GON has conducted few
investigations into the alleged involvement of government
officials in trafficking, though involvement of government
officials reportedly is widespread.
-- Police attempts to stem the trafficking of persons are
inadequate and too often focus on the victims of trafficking,
who are often subjected to lengthy detention and public
humiliation upon repatriation to Nigeria. In contrast,
traffickers are rarely identified and punished.
-- The Labor Ministry has an Inspections Department whose
major responsibilities include enforcing the legal provisions
relating to conditions of work and protection of workers.
However, there are less than 50 inspectors for the entire
country. The Ministry conducts inspections only in the
formal business sector, in which the incidence of child labor
is not significant.
5. Indicator D: Social programs to prevent worst forms of
-- Awareness campaigns, often conducted by spouses of
prominent politicians or non-governmental entities, have only
recently begun to garner widespread attention. Statistics are
insufficient to determine if these campaigns are productive.
The development of a reliable, statistically-valid base for
assessing the child trafficking problem has only recently
begun under ILO auspices.
-- Primary education is compulsory, although this requirement
rarely is enforced. Studies indicate declining school
enrollment due to deteriorated public schools and increased
economic pressures on families. The lack of sufficient
primary schools and the high cost of school fees limit many
families' access to education, inducing them to place their
children in the labor market. Economic hardship leads to
high numbers of children in commercial activities aimed at
enhancing meager family income. Children are frequently used
as beggars, hawkers, and bus conductors in urban areas. The
use of children as domestic servants is common. According to
data from the ILO (dated 1998) and UNICEF, the incidence of
child prostitution is growing.
-- Private and government initiatives to stem the growing
incidence of child employment exist but are ineffective,
given the size of the problem, and the need for a
well-functioning legal system. UNICEF operates programs that
remove young girls from the street hawking trade and relocate
them to informal educational settings. UNICEF believes its
efforts only scratch the surface, however.
6. Indicator E: Whether Nigeria has a comprehensive policy
for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor.
-- In conjunction with the ILO, the Nigerian government is
building a national program of action in support of child
rights, survival, protection, development and participation.