By Ikeugonna Eleke
No fewer than 50 percent of Nigerian children are engaged in child labour, the Anambra State Government has said.
The state disclosed this in a public lecture titled: “The Danger of Child Labour”, organised by the state’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Welfare in collaboration with Beecharity Outlook Foundation (NGO) to mark the 2023 World Day Against Child Labour.
The lecture was organised for women’s leaders of various communities in the state and the media.
It identified child labour as the exploitation of children through any form of work that would deprive them of their childhood, interfere with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially and morally harmful.
It noted that such exploitations were prohibited by legislation worldwide, stating that the only exceptions included work by child artists, family duties, and supervised training.
It lamented that some children who should be in school getting equipped for the future were instead marooned in places where they were subjected to conditions alien to their age or aptitude.
It identified some of the causes of child labour to include poverty, polygamy, lack of family planning, broken homes, tradition and wrong mentality.
It regretted that despite all government interventions, acts and laws, children were still subjected to all manner of abuse and forced labour, querying why offenders would continue to go scot-free or at worst were let off with mere slaps on the wrist when they were caught in the middle of their crimes.
‘Why have the conditions which make it possible for forced labour to thrive in parts of Nigeria remained in place with painfully little done to check them?
‘These grave questions must be speedily and correctly answered, if Nigeria is to pay the enormous debt it owes its children, especially those children betrayed by the spectacular failures of a country that once promised so much.
‘Why should Nigeria`s youngest and those who for reason of age, bear the torch to a brighter future be subjected to backbreaking work when they should be in school getting equipped with all the tools they need to shape a peaceful and prosperous future?’ the group queried.
Speaking separately, a former deputy governor of Anambra State, Dame Virgy Etiaba; Commissioner for Information, Paul Nwosu; and his counterpart in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Welfare, Ify Obinabo, condemned the growing cases of child labour and abuse in the state.
They enjoined the participants to be the change agents in their communities in areas of better life for children.
Etiaba specifically charged the state governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, to prioritize the welfare of children in his government.
The World Day against Child Labour activities in the state began on Saturday with roadwork and media engagements.