Last Updated: Friday, 22 August 2014, 15:07 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Nigeria

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Nigeria, 10 September 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4aba3ecb28.html [accessed 22 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years:
Working children, 5-14 years (%):
Working boys, 5-14 years (%):
Working girls, 5-14 years (%):
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:12
Compulsory education age:12
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:95.5
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:63.0
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%):
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2003:82.9
ILO Convention 138:10/2/2002
ILO Convention 182:10/2/2002
CRC:4/19/1991
CRCOPAC:No
CRCOPSC:No
Palermo:6/28/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Nigeria work in agriculture, including under hazardous conditions, on family and commercial plantations. Children work on cassava farms and on cocoa and rubber plantations, in activities such as weeding, cocoa pod breaking, and mixing hazardous chemicals. In urban areas, children also work as street-peddlers, shoe-shiners, load carriers, car-washers, scavengers, and bus-fare collectors. Children risk exposure to hazardous conditions while working in fishing, sand-harvesting, transportation, and construction. Children are involved in fishing, including casting nets, unloading fish, boat repair, and trading activities. One study of fisher-children in riverine communities in Nigeria found that 70 percent of those surveyed reported having been injured at work at least once in the previous year. Children also risk injury or death working, sometimes in forced labor, in mines and quarries, especially in granite and gravel production.

The practice of sending boys to Koranic teachers to receive education, which may include a vocational or apprenticeship component, is a tradition in various countries, including Nigeria. While some boys receive lessons, others are forced by their teachers to beg and surrender the money that they have earned or perform manual labor; such boys are also often without adequate food or shelter. Street children, who often work as beggars and street hawkers, have been reported to be an increasing population in urban areas.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurs in some Nigerian cities, including Port Harcourt, Bonny, and Lagos. There are also reports of girls in refugee camps located in Nigeria being subject to sexual exploitation, including prostitution.

Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for child trafficking. Children are trafficked internally for domestic and agricultural labor, such as on cocoa plantations, as well as peddling. Within the country, boys are trafficked primarily to work as bonded laborers, street peddlers, and beggars. Girls are trafficked for street peddling, domestic service, which sometimes involves physical or sexual abuse, and commercial sexual exploitation.

Nigeria is a transit country for children from Togo being trafficked to Gabon and Europe. Nigeria is also a destination country for child trafficking; although victims come from various countries, the majority are from Benin. Boys are trafficked for the purposes of forced labor in agriculture, construction, mining, and quarrying from Benin, Togo, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Central African Republic. Girls are trafficked from these countries, as well as Mali and Ghana, for the purposes of forced labor in domestic service, street trading, and commercial sexual exploitation. Children from Niger are also reportedly trafficked to Nigeria to work in forced begging. Chadian children are trafficked to Nigeria for the purposes of cattle herding.

Nigeria is a source country for the trafficking of children to countries within Africa and on other continents. Children are trafficked for the purposes of domestic service from Nigeria to Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Ghana, and Gabon. Nigerian children are trafficked for the purposes of agricultural labor to Ghana, Liberia, Cameroon, and Mali. Children from Nigeria are also trafficked for the purposes of mining to Sierra Leone and for purposes of fishing to Cameroon. Nigerian children are also trafficked to Liberia for forced labor as porters. Children are reportedly trafficked to Sierra Leone, Gabon, and Guinea from Nigeria for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Children are trafficked from Nigeria to work as vendors in Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Ghana, Gabon, and Saudi Arabia. Nigerian children are trafficked to Saudi Arabia to work in forced begging and street vending. These children are at risk of being used by traffickers to obtain diya or "blood money," whereby the trafficker pushes the child in front of a car, using the injury or death as a means of obtaining compensation. Nigerian children are reportedly trafficked to the Middle East to work as camel jockeys. Nigerian children are also reportedly trafficked to Italy and Spain.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labour Act sets a general minimum age for employment of 12 years; however, there is no minimum age provided for light work. The Act specifically provides exceptions for light work in agriculture and horticulture for work in which the employer is a family member. The Act also creates an exception for domestic work. Children under 12 years are prohibited from lifting, carrying, or moving anything so heavy as to be likely to affect their physical development. With parental consent, children may become apprentices at 12 years; children may apprentice themselves at 16 years.

Young persons under 14 years may only be employed under certain conditions. They may be employed only on a "day-to-day basis," must receive the day's wages at the end of the work day, and be able to return each night to their parents' or guardian's residence. Youth under 15 years cannot work in industries or on vessels not run by family members or vocational schools. The law prohibits youth under 16 years from being employed underground, in machine work, or against the wishes of a parent or guardian. Young persons under 16 years of age cannot work for more than 4 consecutive hours or more than 8 hours per day or in circumstances that reasonably prevent them from returning to their place of residence each night. The law forbids night employment of young persons under 18 years or in employment injurious to their health, safety, or morals. The Child Rights Act defines a child as one under 18 years and forbids children from being hired for the purposes of begging or hawking; however, it applies only in 20 States and Federal Territory that have adopted the Act. Violation of the Labour Act's child labor provisions is punishable by a fine, and violation of the Child Rights Act provisions may lead to criminal sanctions in the regions where it applies.

Nigerian law permits forced labor in limited circumstances when required by court sentences, emergency situations, and civic obligation. Except for those circumstances, the law prohibits forced labor, as well as the trafficking in slaves, prostitution, pornography, drug trafficking, and the forced or compulsory recruitment of children into armed conflict. Nigerian law punishes such offenses by fines and up to life in prison. The Trafficking Act outlaws trafficking and the unlawful removal of youth under 18 years from the custody of their parents or guardians and punishes such action by up to 14 years of imprisonment.

The law criminalizes the procurement of children under 18 years for use in prostitution with punishment of up to 14 years of imprisonment. It also outlaws inducing carnal knowledge of a person under 18 years; importing and exporting youth under 18 years of age to be forced into prostitution; and permitting, causing, or encouraging the prostitution or presence in brothels of youth under 18 years. Such acts are punishable by 10 years in prison. Nigeria has a minimum age of 18 years for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces, and there is no mandatory military service.

Nigeria was 1 of 24 countries to adopt the Multilateral Cooperative Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Joint Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, in West and Central African Regions. As part of the regional Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons, the Government of Nigeria agreed to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders; to rehabilitate and reintegrate trafficking victims; and to assist fellow signatory countries to implement these measures under the Agreement.

The responsibility for enforcing child labor laws rests with various ministries and agencies at the Federal, State, and local levels. The Federal Ministry of Employment, Labor, and Productivity coordinates efforts to combat child labor problems and enforce labor provisions.

Enforcement efforts regarding trafficking are the primary responsibility of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). The National Police Force and the Nigerian Immigration Service also have anti-trafficking units responsible for combating trafficking, as do some State police. NAPTIP reported that from January to May 2008, it had rescued 172 children aged 0 to 12 years and 147 children aged 13 to 18 years.

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of Nigeria raised awareness on exploitive child labor and the worst forms of child labor. The Ministry of Labor also conducted trainings for approximately 80 labor and factory inspectors on child labor laws as well as how to conduct inspections in high-risk sectors including agriculture, mining, and the informal sector. This Ministry also reported that 10 additional training and awareness raising programs on child labor were conducted.

In 2008, the Government passed the National Plan of Action on Trafficking in Persons, which provides a coordination framework on research, protection, prevention, and prosecution for NGOs and government entities, including law enforcement agencies and the legislature. The Government also passed the National Policy on Protection and Assistance to Trafficked Persons in Nigeria, which provides for services to trafficking victims, such as protection and rehabilitation. Nigeria continues to operate shelters for trafficking victims and reunited or repatriated trafficked children.

In 2008, Nigeria implemented a survey intended to identify the prevalence and nature of child labor. As of the writing of this report, data were not available to UCW for analysis for use in this report. For information on data used in this report, please see the data sources and definitions section. In November, the Joint Benin and Nigeria Committee to Combat Child Trafficking developed a 2009 to 2010 Joint Action Plan to combat the Trafficking of children from Zakpota, Benin to Abeokuta, Nigeria, for labor in stone quarries.

The Government of Nigeria continues to participate in the USAID-supported Sustainable Tree Crops Program that incorporates child labor issues into its teachings on integrated crop, pest, and quality management in Nigeria. Materials used to train farmers under this program highlight particularly hazardous aspects of agricultural work for children, such as the use of pesticides or the carrying of heavy loads.

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