The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said the federal government is spending billions of Naira on social protection programmes as a triple vaccination against poverty in the country.
The minister said this in Abuja Thursday while briefing the media on the occasion of the 2022 World Day Against Child Labour, with the theme, “Universal Social Protection to end Child Labour.”
The minister, who linked the scourge of child labour to poverty, assured that the federal government was vigorously implementing its numerous social protection programmes to better the lives of parents and the children.
“Everything possible is being done to sustain the social protection programmes in spite of the dwindling revenue of the federal government,” he said.
Stressing that poverty was fuelling child labour, especially in the developing countries, the minister expressed optimism that the scourge could be eliminated through establishment of social protection floors and programmes.
He said the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and other members of the National Steering Committee on the Elimination of Child Labour were using this year’s event to call for increased investment in social protection programmes and schemes to establish solid social protection floors and protect children from child labour.
He said the social protection programmes are essential to fight poverty and vulnerability identified as the causes of child labour.
“Children engaged in this are badly endangered. The Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, in collaboration with the ILO and other stakeholders have been working assiduously and collaboratively to ensure the elimination of Child Labour in line with SDG 8.7 and that young workers of legal working age are protected and work in safe conditions.
“Government is implementing vigorously the National Children School Feeding Programme (NCSFP) which is the major plank of the battle by the Federal Government to fight child labour, increasing children school enrollment and preventing them from dropping out of schools,” he said.
He said the children were being fed with proteinous and nutritious food to make for good health and also keep them in school, while providing jobs for their parents as farmers, traders and cooks.
He said the government was also investing billions of Naira on the Universal Basic Education (UBE), which makes children to attend primary and junior secondary school free, in a bid to prevent them from engaging in child labour.
He said poverty was also being addressed through the conditional cash transfer programme, Trader moni and N-power programme, the diversification of the economy into agriculture through Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) and the Technical Education Vocational Training (TVET) scheme.
He said the government has been trying to sustain all these programmes in spite of declining revenue.
“The MediumTerm Expenditure Framework (MTEF) shows that in 2023, if we continue with business as usual, without blocking leakages of oil theft, without functional refineries and removal of oil subsidy, we will have zero capital budget allocation.
“The economy will be prostrate. It is the capital projects aspect of economy that puts money in production. Every money in recurrent is for consumption. It doesn’t create jobs. Our earnings before and now are not the same. It calls for concern,” he said.
He described the current upheavals in the country including Boko Haram insurgency, banditry and menace of unknown gunmen, as a rebellion of the have nots against the big men and the uneducated against the educated.
He called on the developed countries and the big corporate organisations in Nigeria to support the fight against child labour in Nigeria through investment in social protection.
He said over N2 trillion out of the country’s N3.7 trillion wage bill go to the payment of salaries of workers in the health and education sector alone.
He said it was for this reason that the federal government insisted that every public servant must enrol in the IPPIS but it is being resisted by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
Also speaking, the Director Country Office for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierrra Leone of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Vanessa Phala, described the situation as “very serious.”
Phala said recent ILO and UNICEF research on the role of Social protection in elimination of child labour, revealed that 1.5 billion children worldwide, aged 0-14, receive no family or child benefits while more than 160 million children – 1 in 10 children aged 5-17 – were still engaged in child labour and progress has stalled since 2016.