Cablegate: Nigeria: Update of the Child Labor Information For

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Laws and Regulations Proscribing the Worst Forms of Child
Labor: In 2002, President Obasanjo signed the instruments of
ratification for ILO Convention 182, Worst Form of Child
Labor, Convention 138, Minimum Age for Employment, and
Convention 111, Equality of Occupation. Some form of
legislation prohibiting child labor has existed in Nigeria
since colonial times. Nigeria's 1974 labor decree prohibits
children under 15 years from working in commerce and industry
and restricts other child labor to home-based agricultural or
domestic work. Federal law further stipulates that no person
under the age of 16 may be employed more than eight hours per
day. Most states have also adopted laws proscribing child
labor practices, namely street trading, in the past decade.
Youth apprenticeship is permitted under specific conditions.
Primary education is compulsory, and the minimum age
requirement is consistent with the age for completing
educational requirements.

2. Forced or compulsory labor is also outlawed by the 1974
decree. The national labor code addresses hazardous forms of
work for all workers. Draft legislation was under review in
the National Assembly in 2002 that would make trafficking in
persons (including children) a crime; however, no action has
so far been taken by the legislature.

3. Laws and Regulations for Implementing and Enforcing
Proscriptions against the Worst Forms of Child Labor: Legal
remedies available to government enforcement agencies include
criminal penalties and civil fines. Enforcement provisions
have not been applied successfully and do not deter
violations. Where child labor abuses coincide with other
criminal offenses, such as rape, authorities may investigate,
prosecute, and punish the responsible party for the non-labor

4. Formal Institutional Mechanisms to Investigate and
Address Complaints Relating to the Worst Forms of Child
Labor: There has been slow but noticeable progress in
improving GON capacity to investigate and address abusive
child labor practices. The National Labour Advisory Council
(NLAC) is responsible for enforcing federal regulations and
for receiving and investigating child labor complaints. In
2000, the government exchanged a Memorandum of Understanding
with the International Programme on Elimination of Child
Labour (IPEC) to fund and develop implementation plans for C.
182 provisions. NLAC, IPEC and UNICEF are coordinating
efforts to develop enforcement strategies, the focus of which
is awareness and official training activities. The Ministry
of Employment, Labour and Productivity recently established a
special office for child labor issues.

5. Despite increased institutional momentum and
organization, no child labor violation inspections or
investigations have resulted in fines, penalties, or
convictions to date. A recent trial to prosecute a prominent
suspected child trafficker was dismissed when material
witnesses failed to testify about the children's identities
or the nature of their relationship to the suspect. The
extent to which prosecutors investigated the witnesses'
motives for their unwillingness to cooperate is unknown.

6. Social Programs Implemented to Prevent the Engagement of
Children in, or Assist in Removing Children from, the Worst
Forms of Child Labor: Extended school participation is
generally acknowledged as the best means to deter child
labor. Although primary education is compulsory, this
requirement is not rigorously enforced and many primary
school aged children work when they should be in the
classroom. A source with extensive academic and work
experience on child labor issues believes the government's
commitment to improving educational access is genuine,
although the results of its initiative have not been
evaluated. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) frequently
criticize the government for failing to fund their programs,
which they argue could help reduce child participation in the

7. Comprehensive Policy or National Program Aimed at
Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labor: The collective
body of domestic labor laws and international conventions
ratified this year provides a solid legal foundation to
address child labor problems.

8. Progress Toward Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child
Labor: Since returning to civilian rule in 1999, Nigeria has
made progress addressing child labor abuses. Twenty years
ago, child labor issues were virtually ignored by
academicians and government officials alike. Within the past
decade, awareness of the issue has spread. In the past three
years, Nigeria's liberalized political atmosphere has allowed
NGOs to grow and more adequately address child labor and
other social issues. Recognizing that more needs to be done,
new ideas and more energy are being directed to address the
most egregious child labor problems. Several high-profile
political personalities, including the wife of the President,
wife of the Vice-President, and the wives of several State
governors, have campaigned on behalf of children, and against
prostitution, child labor and trafficking in children.

9. The challenges to progress are formidable. The sixteen
years of military rule prior to 1999 left a legacy of
increasing child labor practices with limited capacity for
governmental enforcement of existing laws. Military
enforcement of child labor laws consisted of periodic sweeps
and dragnets to arrest child workers but little was done to
regulate or deter law-breaking employers. These sweeps
usually resulted in an increased number of new child laborers
taking the places of those who had been arrested, which had
the unintended effect of increasing child labor
10. Increasing poverty and the need to supplement meager
family incomes has forced many children into the employment
market, which is unable to absorb their labor due to high
levels of unemployment. The use of children as beggars,
hawkers, etc. in the informal sector is widespread in urban
areas. Some families rely exclusively on child breadwinners
to survive. In 1999, one study found approximately 100
locations in Lagos with two to three regular child workers.
Surveys over the past decade estimate that the number of
children working after school has increased from one out of
three to two out of three. The average age of child workers
has also dropped. Quality of child worker training has
decreased as younger workers are trained increasingly by
peers nearer their own age rather than by experienced adult
laborers. This in turn has increased the risks associated
with work.

11. Historical perceptions about social mobility also impede
efforts to end child labor. Many rural parents believe that
sending their children to work for wealthy urban
professionals will significantly improve both their immediate
and future living standards. Traditional practice in this
respect does not regard child labor as exploitative.

12. Few statistics were available to quantify the success of
ongoing anti-trafficking campaigns. Meaningful studies of
the extent of child labor are lacking in Nigeria due to
several barriers. Accurate measurements take time and
resources are unavailable to domestic NGOs or academic
researchers. Researchers find it difficult to establish a
rapport with working children necessary to investigate their
conditions. Child laborers in Nigeria fear the motives of
child labor researchers and are a "moving target" for
census-takers. Thus, comprehensive analysis of child labor
in Nigeria remains elusive.


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