Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November 2014, 13:39 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Nigeria

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 August 2006
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Nigeria, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d749001a.html [accessed 28 November 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 Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138     10/2/2002
Ratified Convention 182     10/2/2002
ILO-IPEC Member
National Plan for Children 
National Child Labor Action Plan
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Statistics on the number of working children under age 15 in Nigeria are unavailable.3455 Many children work in agriculture and related sectors, helping the family in fishing, farming, or cattle herding. Children also work on commercial farms.3456 In urban areas, children work as domestic servants, street hawkers, vendors, beggars, scavengers, shoe shiners, car washers/watchers, and bus conductors.3457 Children also work in cottage industries and mechanical workshops as iron and metal workers, carpenters, tailors, weavers, caterers, barbers and hairdressers.3458 Child begging is especially widespread in northern Nigeria.3459 The almajiranci system of semi-formal Koranic education has come to rely on child pupils begging to support their mallam, or Islamic teacher.3460 Child labor is one of many problems associated with poverty. In 1996, the most recent year for which data are available, 70.2 percent of the population in Nigeria were living on less than USD 1 a day.3461

Commercial sexual exploitation of children is common in many cities in Nigeria.3462 The country is a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for forced labor and forced prostitution.3463 Children from Benin and other African countries are trafficked to Nigeria, where some are forced to work as domestic workers, prostitutes,3464 or under other exploitative labor conditions.3465 Nigerian children are trafficked internally and to West and Central Africa for domestic labor, commercial agriculture (including cocoa), quarrying, and street hawking, and to Europe for commercial sexual exploitation.3466 Children are also trafficked to Saudi Arabia.3467

The Constitution of Nigeria requires the government to provide free, compulsory primary education "when practical."3468 The compulsory education period in Nigeria is 9 years.3469 In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 119 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 67 percent.3470 Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. Primary school attendance statistics are not available for Nigeria.3471 Although more than two-thirds of all states in Nigeria have declared free basic education,3472 access to education is hindered by the costs of books, transportation, and uniforms.3473 Girls who are unable to attend school are often required to work as domestics, traders or street vendors.3474

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Act sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years, except for light agricultural, horticultural, or domestic work performed for the family.3475 The minimum age for apprenticeships is 13 years.3476 The Labor Act prohibits employing children to lift or carry any load likely to negatively affect their physical development, and establishes a minimum age of 15 years for industrial work and maritime employment.3477 Children under 16 years are prohibited from working underground, on machines, at night, on a public holiday, or in employment that is dangerous or immoral, for more than 4 consecutive hours, or for more than 8 hours a day.3478 The Act authorizes the Ministry of Labor to regulate child domestic service.3479

The worst forms of child labor may be prosecuted under different statutes in Nigeria. According to section 11 of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, any person who traffics a child under the age of 18 years into or out of Nigeria with the intent to prostitute him/her is subject to imprisonment from ten years to life. The Act stipulates a prison term for any person who procures for himself or others any child under the age of 18, and for any person who commits a child in their care to prostitution or indecent assault.3480 The Act also prohibits forced labor, trafficking in slaves, pornography, drug trafficking, or forced or compulsory recruitment into armed conflict. The Act applies to all residents of Nigeria, and to Nigerians who are convicted outside of Nigeria for trafficking-related offenses. It also provides for the rights of victims of trafficking, including the right to access health and social services while a temporary resident, protection of identity, and the right to press charges against the trafficker.3481 Eleven Nigerian states afflicted by trafficking have established anti-trafficking police units.3482

The Child Rights Act provides for a ten-year sentence for the trafficking of children for the purposes of hawking, begging, prostitution, pornography, labor under slave-like conditions, and activities related to illicit drugs.3483 Nigeria has no military conscription. Recruitment into the professional armed forces is on a voluntary basis. The minimum legal recruitment age is 18.3484

Child labor regulations, policies and laws are promoted and enforced at the federal, state and local levels by various ministries and agencies. The Federal Ministry of Employment, Labor and Productivity3485 coordinates all efforts to combat child labor through its Inspectorate Department, which includes a Child Labor Unit. As of March, the Ministry had 318 Labor Officers and Inspectors, 80 of whom had been trained in child labor issues.3486 According to the U.S. Department of State, government initiatives to stem the incidence of child labor have been ineffective.3487 Inspectors are hindered by inadequate funding, transportation, training, incentives, and resistance by employers, children and their families.3488 The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act established The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other Related Matters (NAPTIP), a national agency to coordinate trafficking in persons efforts, oversee enforcement of the Act, and to provide for victim rehabilitation.3489 According to U.S. Department of State, trafficking in persons funding is inadequate and official corruption, particularly among immigration and airport authorities, allows traffickers to gain access into the country.3490

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

The Government of Nigeria participates in two USDOL-funded regional projects: the first aims to combat the trafficking of children,3491 and the second, funded jointly with the Cocoa Global Issues Group, withdraws children from hazardous work in the cocoa sector, generates income for families, and improves access to and the quality of education.3492 In addition, the USAID-supported Sustainable Tree Crops Program incorporates child labor issues into its program in Nigeria, and coordinates with the ILO-IPEC program to address child labor in the cocoa sector.3493 In 2005, the U.S. Department of State began funding four anti-trafficking awareness raising projects throughout the country.3494

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) Global Program against Trafficking in Human Beings provides technical assistance to the government to assess trends in human trafficking.3495 In addition, the Governments of Nigeria and Italy are collaborating on a separate UNODC project to reduce the trafficking of women and minors for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation between the two countries.3496 With funding from the U.S. Department of State and USAID, IOM and local non-governmental organizations have developed and currently operate temporary shelters and training centers in Edo State for returned trafficking victims.3497

NAPTIP has been working with other federal ministries, law enforcement and immigration officers, and civil society organizations in 22 states to establish anti-trafficking committees at the state level to sensitize the local populations on the dangers of trafficking in persons.3498 As of August, NAPTIP had successfully convicted 3 traffickers and had 2 additional cases pending.3499 NAPTIP is also working with international governments and organizations to establish a center for the maintenance and analysis of records from all agencies and organizations working on TIP issues.3500

In June 2005, the Governments of Nigeria and Benin signed a cooperation agreement to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, with an emphasis on trafficking in women and children.3501 In March 2005, police rescued more than 100 trafficked children who were concealed in a frozen food truck on its way to Lagos for work as domestic servants. Sixty seven of these children were between the ages of 1 and 14.3502 In July, police in Cross River State intercepted a bus traveling to Cameroon carrying 40 children destined to be exploited in forced labor situations.3503

The Government of Nigeria's "National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy" (NEEDS 20032007) sets an institutional and governmental reform agenda for the country. Among other things, the NEEDS seeks to provide a safety net to vulnerable groups and emphasizes the importance of education and the protection of children from all forms of abuse including hazardous work, sexual exploitation, and trafficking.3504 The Government of Nigeria's Education strategies include full implementation of the free and compulsory education requirement, decreasing gender gaps in the educational system, and improving the quality of education through teacher reform. In addition, the Government's 2004-2007 Strategic National Education Plan aims to improve the quality of education at all levels.3505

In September, the President of Nigeria launched a school feeding program that aimed to provide one meal per school day to 10 percent of all primary school children in the pilot phase of the program. The program aims to increase enrollment and completion rates of children living in poor urban neighborhoods and rural communities.3506

UNICEF, in collaboration with the government, has been implementing a Strategy for Acceleration of Girls Education in Nigeria to promote equal access to education for girls.3507 UNICEF also works to improve enrollment and retention rates, educational attainment and nutritional status in primary schools by focusing on teaching and learning practices.3508 The Government of Nigeria is implementing a USD 101 million Universal Basic Education Project supported by the World Bank, which aims to improve the quality of schools, increase access to education, and strengthen the Education Management Information System in Nigeria.3509 USAID funds the Literacy Enhancement Assistance Program (LEAP) which supports teacher training, community participation, and the use of educational data in the development of school budgets and policy in three states (Lagos, Kano, and Nasarawa), as well as youth skills development for unemployed youth in Delta, Lagos, and Kano.3510


3455 This statistic is not available from the data sources that are used in this report. Please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section in the front of the report for information about sources used. Reliable data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms, such as the use of children in the illegal drug trade, prostitution, pornography, and trafficking. As a result, statistics and information on children's work in general are reported in this section. Such statistics and information may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section.

3456 Anthony Hodges, Children's and Women's Rights in Nigeria: A Wake-up Call, Situation Assessment and Analysis 2001 (Lagos: UNICEF and the Nigeria National Planning Commission, 2001), 204. See also Bolanle M Fetuga, et. al., "Prevalence, types and demographic features of child labour among school children in Nigeria," BMC International Health and Human Rights 5 (March 2, 2005); available from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-698X/52.

3457 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: Nigeria, February 28, 2005, section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41620.htm. See also U.S. Consulate General – Lagos, reporting, August 31, 2005. See also Fetuga, "Prevalence, types and demographic features of child labour among school children in Nigeria."

3458 Hodges, Children's and Women's Rights in Nigeria, 205.

3459 Ibid., 209.

3460 Ibid.

3461 World Bank, World Development Indicators 2005 [CD-ROM], Washington, DC, 2005.

3462 Hodges, 209-210. An NGO has reported that the average age of commercial sex workers is 16 years. See ECPAT International, Nigeria, in ECPAT International, [database online] 2002 [cited November 8, 2005], Child Prostitution; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/Ecpat_inter/projects/monitoring/online_database/index.asp.

3463 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Nigeria, Washington, D.C., June 3, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46614.htm. See also ILO-IPEC, Combating the trafficking of children for labour exploitation in West & Central Africa (Phase II), project document, RAF/01/P53/USA, Geneva, April, 2001, 1.

3464 ILO-IPEC, Combating the trafficking of children for labour exploitation in West & Central Africa (Phase II), 1.

3465 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Nigeria.

3466 Ibid. See also ILO-IPEC, West Africa Cocoa/Commercial Agriculture Programme to Combat Hazardous and Exploitative Child Labour (WACAP), project document, RAF/02/P50/USA, Geneva, September 2002. Children are often trafficked by relatives or other familiar people who offer salary payments, schooling or training. See U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Nigeria, section 5.

3467 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Nigeria, Section 5.

3468 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Nigeria, Section 5. However, according to the U.S. Department of State, authorities do not effectively enforce laws on compulsory education. See U.S. Embassy – Abuja, reporting, September 20 2004.

3469 Nigerian Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity official, interview with DOL contractor, March 29, 2005.

3470 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrolment Ratios, Primary; accessed October 2005).

3471 This statistic is not available from the data sources that are used in this report. Please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section for information about sources used.

3472 U.S. Consulate General – Lagos, reporting, August 31, 2005.

3473 U.S. Embassy – Abuja, reporting, September 20, 2004.

3474 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Nigeria, section 5.

3475 Ibid., section 6d. See also Nigeria Labour Act, (1974), article 59; available from http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/WEBTEXT/42156/64980/E7RNGA01.htm#p3.

3476 Nigeria Labour Act, article 49.

3477 Ibid., articles 59-61.

3478 Ibid., articles 59-60.

3479 Ibid., articles 59 and 65.

3480 Government of Nigeria, Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003, (July), sections 11-19, 21, 23, 25-26, 36-38. See also UNFPA, Nigeria Enacts Anti-Human Trafficking Law, April 5, 2004; available from http://www.unfpa.org/parliamentarians/news/newsletters/issue20.htm. See also U.S. Consulate General – Lagos, reporting, August 31, 2005.

3481 Trafficking in Persons Act. See also UNFPA, Nigeria Enacts Anti-Human Trafficking Law.

3482 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Nigeria, section 5.

3483 Federal Republic of Nigeria, Official Gazette, No. 116, Lagos, December 23, 2003, Article 30.

3484 Recruitment into the professional armed forces is on a voluntary basis. The minimum legal recruitment age is 18. See Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004-Nigeria, online report, 2004; available from http://www.child soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=790.

3485 The Government of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity, [online] [cited January 20, 2006]; available from http://www.nigeria.gov.ng/fed_min_employment_labour.aspx.

3486 Nigerian Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity official, interview with DOL contractor, March 29, 2005, 17.

3487 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Nigeria, 6d.

3488 Nigerian Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity official, interview with DOL contractor, March 29, 2005. See also U.S. Consulate General – Lagos, reporting, August 31, 2005.

3489 Trafficking in Persons Act.

3490 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: Nigeria, section 5. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: Nigeria.

3491 The project began in 1999 and is currently in its second phase. See ILO-IPEC, Combating the trafficking of children for labour exploitation in West & Central Africa (Phase I), project document, RAF/01/P53/USA, Geneva, July 1999. See also ILO-IPEC, Combating the trafficking of children for labour exploitation in West & Central Africa (Phase II). See also U.S. Department of Labor, ILAB Technical Cooperation Project Summary: Combating Trafficking in Children for Labor Exploitation in West and Central Africa, Phases 1 & 2 (LUTRENA), summary.

3492 ILO-IPEC, West Africa Cocoa/Commercial Agriculture Programme, project document, 1, 12.

3493 Sustainable Tree Crops Program, Program Overview, [online] January 4, 2006 [cited January 20, 2006]; available from http://www.treecrops.org/aboutstcp/stcp%20program%20overview.pdf.

3494 U.S. Department of State – INL, reporting, November 9, 2005.

3495 The project is supported by funds from Canada, France and Norway. See UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Pilot Projects: Technical Cooperation by Geographical Region: Africa, [online] [cited January 22, 2006]; available from http://www.odccp.org/odccp/trafficking_projects.html.

3496 UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Programme of action against trafficking in minors and young women from Nigeria into Italy for the purpose of sexual exploitation, January 22, 2006; available from http://www.unodc.org/nigeria/en/humantrafficking.html.

3497 Many women and children trafficked from Nigeria to Europe originate in Edo State. The shelters offer victims temporary housing, counseling, and 6 months of training in literacy and numeracy, and marketable skills such as computer use and tailoring. See USAID, Trafficking in Persons: USAID's Response, March, 2004, 5; available from http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/cross cutting_programs/wid/pubs/trafficking_in_person_usaids_response_march2004.pdf.

3498 U.S. Consulate General – Lagos, reporting, August 31, 2005.

3499 Ibid.

3500 U.S. Embassy – Abuja, reporting, February 16, 2005.

3501 UNICEF, Benin and Nigeria pledge to fight child trafficking, June 9, 2005; available from http://www.unicef.org/media/media_27309.html. See also Max Amuchie, Nigeria, Benin, United against Child Trafficking, [online] 2005 [cited June 21, 2005]; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200506201353.html.

3502 Integrated Regional Information Networks, Nigeria: Fighting the Many Heads of the Child-Trafficking Beast, [online] March 21, 2005 [cited May 23, 2005]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=46202. See also UNICEF, Nigerian officials rescue more than 100 children from child traffickers, March 9, 2005; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/nigeria_25508.html.

3503 U.S. Consulate General – Lagos, reporting, August 31, 2005.

3504 See Government of Nigeria, Nigeria: National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, March 2004, 5, 54, 101, 108; available from http://www.nigeria.gov.ng/eGovernment/Needs.PDF. See also Daily Champion (Lagos), Osuji Takes SNEP to UNESCO, allAfrica, [online] September 29, 2004 [cited October 28, 2004]; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/200409290567.html. See also U.S. Consulate General – Lagos, reporting, August 31, 2005.

3505 Other NEEDS education strategies involve the further development and improvement of the country's vocational education programs. Government of Nigeria, National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy. See also UNESCO, Nigeria: Minister of Education, [online] 2004 [cited November 22, 2005]; available from http://www.ibe.unesco.org/International/ICE47/english/MesMOE/messages/nigeria.html.

3506 Xinhua News Agency, Nigeria launches school feeding program, [online] September 26, 2005 [cited September 27, 2005]; available from http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/KHII-6GM4ZF?OpenDocument.

3507 UNICEF, Carol Bellamy Visits Polio's Last stand in Africa, [online] 2003 [cited July 6, 2005]; available from http://www.unicef.org/media/media_12203.html.

3508 UNICEF, UNICEF: At a glance: Nigeria – Statistics, [online] July 24, 2003 [cited November 22, 2005]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/nigeria_statistics.html?q=printme.

3509 The project began in 2002. See World Bank, Universal Basic Education Project, [online] 2004 [cited November 22, 2005]; available from http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=104231&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projecti d=P071494.

3510 The LEAP program operates in primary grades 3-6. USAID, S03 – Basic Education, [online] no date [cited November 22, 2005]; available from http://www.usaid.gov/ng/so3.htm.

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