Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Nigeria

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 7 June 2002
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Nigeria, 7 June 2002, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
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.

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

The Government of Nigeria became a member of ILO-IPEC in August 2000. The government is currently participating in a USDOL funded ILO-IPEC regional project to eliminate trafficking and in a national program funded in 1999. Working in concert with ILO-IPEC, the government established a National Steering Committee that includes representatives from the government, labor, industry groups, and NGOs. The committee is responsible for developing and overseeing implementation of a national plan of action on child labor. In addition, Nigerian Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) and the Federal Ministry of Employment, Labor, and Productivity (FMELP) are carrying out a national child labor survey with funding from the USDOL and technical assistance from ILO-IPEC's SIMPOC.[1872]

Nigeria also participates in an ILO-IPEC regional project funded by the USDOL to combat the trafficking of children for labor exploitation in West and Central Africa, and a national plan of action to combat trafficking has been developed by the Federal Ministry of Women's Affairs and Youth Development with support from ILO-IPEC and UNICEF.[1873] In 1999, the Government established a police anti-trafficking task force that has helped repatriate over 400 women and girls who have been trafficked during the past two years.[1874] UNICEF has also established a series of programs for street children in Nigeria and launched a collaborative project with the ILO Regional Office specifically targeting almajirai children,[1875] and UNESCO funded a study on street children in 1995 that was implemented by a local Nigerian NGO.[1876]

The government's new basic education plan, entitled "Universal Basic Education," aims to improve the relevance, efficiency, and quality of schools and to create programs to address the basic education needs of nomadic and out-of-school children, youth and adults.[1877] In addition, the Federal Ministry of Women's Affairs and Social Welfare has worked in collaboration with UNICEF and the Centre for Non-Formal Education and Training on a non-formal education curriculum for girls, children without access to schools, and school dropouts.[1878]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 1999, the ILO estimated 24.2 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 in Nigeria were working.[1879] Children work predominantly in the informal economy.[1880] In cottage industries and small, industrial workshops, children work as apprentices in various crafts such as weaving, tailoring, catering, hairdressing, and auto repair.[1881] In rural areas, children are found working on family farms.[1882] Children are commonly employed as domestic servants, and in urban areas and towns, children work in markets, bus stations and roadside businesses.[1883] In northern areas, children known as almajirai survive on the street by begging.[1884]

Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficked persons, including children.[1885] Children as young as 7 years of age are smuggled from town to town, to neighboring African countries, as well as to Western Europe and the Middle East, and forced to work on commercial farms, in restaurants, or as prostitutes or street vendors.[1886]

The Constitution calls for the Government, "when practical" to provide free, compulsory and universal primary education.[1887] In September 1999, the President of Nigeria launched a new basic education plan making the first nine years of schooling free and compulsory.[1888] Nonetheless, compulsory education is rarely provided, particularly in the north of the country.[1889] In 1996, the gross primary enrollment rate was 70.3 percent, with 65.1 percent of girls and 75.4 percent of boys enrolled.[1890] A traditional bias exists among parents and families against girls' education, particularly in rural and northern areas.[1891] This bias is more pronounced in rural areas. It is estimated that only 42 percent of rural girls are enrolled in school.[1892]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Nigerian Labor Act establishes 12 years as the minimum age for employment and apprenticeships, except in the case of light agricultural or domestic work performed for the family.[1893] It also prohibits children under 12 years from lifting or carrying any load likely to cause physical injury, and establishes a minimum age of 15 years for industrial work and employment aboard a vessel.[1894] In addition, according to the Labor Act, children under 16 years may not work underground, on machines, at night, or for more than four consecutive hours or eight hours in any one-day period.[1895] The Labor Act prohibits young people from any employment that is dangerous or immoral.[1896] The law does not apply to domestic service, and separate provisions for domestic servants are determined by the Ministry of Labor and Productivity.[1897] Forced labor is prohibited by the Labor Act and the Nigerian Constitution.[1898]

The Ministry of Labor and Productivity's Inspections Department is responsible for enforcing legal provisions relating to conditions of work and protection of workers. However, there are fewer than 50 inspectors, and inspections are only conducted in the formal business sector.[1899] Nigeria has not ratified ILO Convention 138 or ILO Convention 182.[1900]

[1872] ILO-IPEC, National Program on Elimination of Child Labour in Nigeria, Report No. 3, July-September 2001 (Geneva, September 6, 2001) [hereinafter National Program on Elimination of Child Labour]. See also ILO-IPEC, National Program on the Elimination of Child Labor in Nigeria (Geneva, 1999) [hereinafter Elimination of Child Labor in Nigeria], 2.

[1873] The first phase of the regional project involved an assessment of the trafficking problem in nine African countries, including Nigeria. In July 2001, a second phase of this project began that focuses on direct action to assist children who are victims of trafficking. The second phase will also seek to raise awareness, strengthen local capacity to address the problem, and enhance regional cooperation to address trafficking. See ILO-IPEC, "Combating the Trafficking of Children for Labor Exploitation in West and Central Africa (Phase II)" (Geneva, 2000), 3-4.

[1874] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, July 2001, Nigeria [hereinafter Trafficking in Persons Report], at 62.

[1875] Elimination of Child Labour in Nigeria. In the north, almajirai is term for child beggars.

[1876] UNESCO, Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment, Country Reports – Nigeria at, [hereinafter Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment].

[1877] Elimination of Child Labour in Nigeria.

[1878] These efforts have contributed to an increase in enrollment, particularly among girls, and enhanced opportunities for non-formal and nomadic education. In a pilot project in Sokoto state in northern Nigeria, enrollment in basic education rose from 914 pupils in 1996 to 115,525 pupils in 2000, of which 73,291 had passed their exams. The project recorded a less than 0.2 percent dropout rate. Fewer girls drop out than boys. See Elimination of Child Labour in Nigeria at 3.

[1879] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2001 (Washington, D.C., World Bank, 2001) [CD-ROM].

[1880] Children are seldom employed by state-owned commercial agriculture farms, and official U.S. Government visits to formal industrial settings in Lagos and Kano have not revealed the use of child labor in manufacturing establishments, including textile plants, tanneries, and sawmills. See U.S. Embassy-Lagos, unclassified telegram 2617, August 2000 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 2617]. See also U.S. Embassy-Lagos, unclassified telegram no. 3774, April 1995 [hereinafter unclassified telegram 3774].

[1881] Elimination of Child Labor in Nigeria, 2.

[1882] Unclassified telegram 2617.

[1883] Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 – Nigeria (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2001) [hereinafter Country Reports 2000], Section 6d, at See also unclassified telegram 2617.

[1884] In 1996, it was reported that in Lagos alone there were 100,000 boys and girls living and working on the streets. See Elimination of Child Labor in Nigeria. See also Child Welfare League of Nigeria: Alternative Report on the Implementation of CRC, submission to the CRC, September-October 1996, as cited in The Worst Forms of Child Labor: Country-wise Data (New Delhi: The Global March Against Child Labour, October 2000).

[1885] Trafficking in Persons Report, 62.

[1886] Nigerians are trafficked to countries such as Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Spain, France, Italy, and countries in the Middle East. See Peter O. Ebigbo, "Child Trafficking in Nigeria: The State of the Art," Country Study (ILO-IPEC, April 2000), 10-12. See also Trafficking in Person Report at 62 and BBC News, "Trafficking Nightmare for Nigerian Children," January 10, 2001.

[1887] Country Reports 2000, at Section 5.

[1888] Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment. See also IPEC Summary of Individual Country Programs, Nigeria (Geneva: ILO/IPEC, 2001).

[1889] Country Reports 2000, at Section 5.

[1890] Education for All: Year 2000 Assessment.

[1891] Country Reports 2000, at Section 5.

[1892] Country Reports 2000, at Section 5.

[1893] Nigeria Labour Act, Articles 49, 59a, in NATLEX database at on 11/14/01 [hereinafter Labour Act].

[1894] Labour Act at Articles 59, 59b, 61.

[1895] Ibid. at Articles 59, 60.

[1896] Ibid. at Article 59. See also Criminal Code Act, Articles 22A, 223, as cited in the Protection Project Database at on 3/19/02. The Criminal Code Act establishes a penalty of two years imprisonment for both causing or encouraging the prostitution of a girl under 16 years of age and procuring a girl under 18 years of age for sexual relations.

[1897] Ibid. at Article 65, which states that the minister may make regulations providing for the "engagement, repatriation or supervision of domestic servants," as well as "the employment of women and young persons as domestic servants."

[1898] Ibid. at Article 73. See also Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Article 34, 1999.

[1899] Country Reports 2000, at Section 6d.

[1900] ILO, ILOLEX database: Nigeria at

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