INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS ON CHILD LABOUR
The legal framework for the protection of children against child labour and exploitation in Nigeria is largely dependent on international conventions and treaties to which Nigeria is a signatory. Some of the key international instruments Nigeria is party to include:
1. Convention on the Right of a Child:
This is the primary legal instrument that is targeted towards safeguarding children’s rights. It has received ratification from nearly every nation globally, including Nigeria. It encompasses the safeguarding of every aspect of a child’s rights, encompassing their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. This convention provides in Article 32(1) that;
“States Parties recognise the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development”.
It is important to note that this provision stipulates that, for a work to be recognized as exploitative, such must be harmful to the welfare and wellbeing of the child and be considered hazardous. It should be further noted that this article is vague and leaves the ambit of the interpretation to be stretched as far as possible or shrunk as little as state parties desire.
Article 32(2) provides guidance to state parties on the proper mode of implementation of the provisions of this instrument, including the enactment of domestic legislation and putting measures in place to safeguard the welfare of a child.
It’s important to note that despite these legal provisions, child labour remains a significant challenge in Nigeria, particularly in informal sectors and rural areas. Enforcement of these laws and raising awareness about the importance of education and child protection are ongoing efforts in the country.
2. The Minimum Age Convention No. 138 of 1973:
The Convention addresses the omission in Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of a Child, which does not specify the age at which children can start working. It specifies that the minimum age for starting employment should not be below the age when compulsory schooling ends and, in any circumstance, should not be under 15 years of age. It also established a minimum age of 14 years for developing countries.
Additionally, the Convention stipulates an age range of 13 to 15 years for children engaged in light work, even though the Convention does not provide a specific definition for what constitutes light work. It however grants the authority to Member States to replace the ages of 13 and 15 with 12 and 14 concerning engagement in light work, and the age of 15 with 14 for children who are participating in education or training programs approved by the school authority.
3. Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, No. 182 of 1989:
The Convention is concerned with the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. In its preamble, it calls on States’ Parties to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency while setting the age of participation in hazardous work at 18 years.
4. African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC):
The Charter prohibits economic exploitation and the engagement in hazardous labour that might disrupt a child’s physical well-being or mental development. It curiously leaves out the age that falls under the class of a child.