Paul Obi in Abuja
The United States (US) government Thursday asked the federal government to expedite action in tackling child labour and ensuring occupational safety in work places.
US African Adviser and International Relations Officer, United States Department of Labour, Olaoluwa Abina, said this while on a working visit to the Ministry of Labour and Employment in Abuja.
Abina who was received by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, said: “Our coming here is to boost the revitalisation of labour inspection and occupational safety in Nigeria.
“We want to meet the stakeholders to find out where gap exists, so as to work together to design a better operational approach from our findings ,” Abina said.
He commended the strong representation made by Nigeria during the technical assistance at the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Conference organised by the United States Labour Department in September 2016.
Also speaking, the United States Embassy Labour Attaché in Nigeria, Mirna Torres, who accompanied the US African Adviser on the visit, noted that there was a significant decrease in the rate of child labour in Nigeria and commended Sen. Ngige for championing the crusade.
Speaking, Ngige observed that it was a clear administrative policy of the Buhari administration that decent work cannot be effectively promoted without tackling the scourge of child labour, hence, the deliberate modeling of its Social Investment Programme to essentially benefit school children through a Home Grown School Feeding Programme, intended to make school attractive and assist parents who withdraw kids from school out of poverty.
“We are planning to extend this programme of at least one nutritious feeding a day, to students in junior secondary schools, don’t forget that under our UBEC Programme, education is free, up to junior secondary school is free.
“We are leaving no stone unturned in eliminating child labour as a fundamental step in promoting decent work. You cannot talk of decent work when you have under-aged children dropping out of school and joining the workforce in mining, agriculture and others. Even in agriculture where our tradition permits children to assist parents in the farm, there must be a limit.
He added, “our labour laws are being amended to be explicit on the age a Nigerian is not eligible to work or be in the work force. This is currently before the National Assembly.
“We also have regulations that stimulate occupational safety for workers as well as prohibit discrimination of any form against persons living with HIV aids.
“We have refurbished our departments, especially the core Labour departments of Inspectorate as well as Occupational Safety.
“We replaced moribund working tools with new ones, brought new vehicles to enhance inspection, and upgraded our manpower base by recruiting professionals into our federal, eight zonal and thirty-six states and the FCT offices.
“In 2017, within the latitude of the nation’s economic realities, we recruited one hundred and eighty persons and getting another one hundred and fifty in 2018,” he said.