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SPECIAL REPORT: How Empowerment Programs, Unclear Policies Failed To Reduce Street Hawking In Lagos (PART 2)

Deborah, a secondary school student of a public school, sells vegetables on the street in the evening. The seventeen years old minor has been trading since her primary school to support her mother, who is highly invested in the sales of all kinds of vegetables.

Deborah, over the years, has ensured to come out top in her class despite having to carry vegetables on her head to sell to commuters daily.

” In my primary school, I was made the head girl and I moved on to becoming a prefect in my junior secondary school. I have been hawking since my primary school and I still do to help my family, while my siblings learn other vocational trade.”

Deborah, just like Mariam, is not ignorant of dangers surrounding street hawking as she is determined to always sell all her goods before going home.

Unemployment In Lagos

With a growing population of 14 million residents, Lagos state according to the National Bureau of Statistics 2020’s second-quarter report on unemployment has a labour force of over 6 million (6,831,870) compared to 7 million recorded in the third quarter of 2018 and 2017.

In NBS 2017-2018 third-quarter assessment, “Lagos state expectedly recorded the highest labour force population in the zone (as well as in the country). The population increased by 398,559 or 5.6%, from 7,079,697 in Q3 2017, to 7,478,256.

“In Q3 2018. The unemployment rate dropped to 14.6% (18.28% in Q3 2017) during the quarter, while the underemployment rates declined to 12.4%, this was a decrease of 3.7 and 3.0 percentage points respectively. The total net (created minus lost) number of employed persons (full time and parttime/ underemployed) increased by 574,744 persons within Q3 2017 and Q3 2018.”

Despite the differences in the labour force records between 2017 and 2019, the state has consistently risen in the unemployment rate.

Although the state is drastically below the benchmark of Nigeria’s 40.1 per cent poverty index, the unemployment rate has increased by 241,738 persons between 2018 Q3 and 2019 Q2.

With a projection of losing 13 million jobs due to the covid19 pandemic, according to the UN, findings gathered by our reporter revealed that the most residents have begun to alternate street trading alongside other jobs to make ends meet. 

However, a report by the Conversation, challenged the government to aim at eradicating poverty rather than remove hawkers from the streets as there’s no justification to the policies imposed. 

Child Labour Lagos

In 2012, the United Nations Children’s Fund, in a survey, placed the total population of primary age children at 1,223,027. In this population, 4.3 per cent are out of school, 21.1 per cent have dropped out while 27.5 per cent are expected to never enter school.

Three years later, the Lagos State House of Assembly called on the then Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to instruct concerned agencies to stop uncontrolled and unchecked street hawking by under-aged children on the streets.

The motion followed a resolution to remove all children on the streets, control the psychological trauma experienced and give a good picture of the state’s industrialization.

Despite the freedom to basic education, Nigeria, in 2018, recorded about 13.2million children out of school children. With its magnitude in the northern region, due to the insurgency and displacement of homes and school, children in the southwest, according to findings, are made to hustle for survival.

The Universal Basic Education Commission published that Lagos State in 2019 had a population of children between ages 6-11 totalling 418,237 with a 20 per cent population of children out of school (84,247).

The research revealed that in Nigeria many school-aged children make sales through carrying goods, travelling about 12-13 hours daily to wherever they can find a buyer. These children hawk for the upkeep of themselves and their families, while some others hawk for wages, or for people they live with outside their biological homes.

Speaking with a child right advocate and National Lead of Child First Nigeria, Peju Osoba, she said, “Despite all that is being done, it is unfortunate that Nigeria still has a growing number of out of school children. As at November 2020, the number has grown to over 12 million. The insurgency in the North East and the effect of covid 19 has not helped at all. Government response to the matter is slow and sometimes misdirected.

“The global economic downturn and the particular situation of Nigeria has further forced families to send their children to work in order to make up for family needs. Child headed families are beginning to emerge as parents are being killed in the NorthEast. 

“The fact that education being free remains on paper is another factor and for as long as there are no monitoring mechanisms for government policies, things will continue the way they are. Children are either completely out of school or a majority of them are schooling and working. At present, statistics have it that about 43% of Nigerian children are involved in one form of child labour or the other (USDOL report 2019).

“A child without access to education is being denied his right to development which is a basic right as enshrined in the constitution of Nigerian and the child rights act of 2003. Any denial of right is tantamount to abuse. A child without education is not likely to understand that he has a right to be protested from abuse hence he is highly vulnerable. For as long as children are out of school and they engage in child labour, they will be exploited and exploitation is a form of abuse.”

ILO Conventions On Child Labour

The International Labour Organisation has two conventions to address child labour in countries. These conventions are fundamental and all ILO member States have an obligation to respect, promote and realize the abolition of child labour, even if they have not ratified the Conventions in question.

Convention No.138 on Minimum Age ensures that a child does not start working until they attain a legal age. The aim of ILO Convention No.138  on the minimum age is the effective abolition of child labour by requiring countries to establish a minimum age for entry into work or employment and establish national policies for the elimination of child labour.

Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour helps to focus the international spotlight on the urgency of action to eliminate as a priority, the worst forms of child labour without losing the long term goal of the effective elimination of all child labour. Convention No. 182 requires countries to take ratifying countries to take immediate, effective and time-bound measures to eliminate the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency.

In October 2002, Nigeria ratified the specific minimum age to be 15years and agreed to the provision of Convention 182. 

Osoba, however, added that “the Child Rights Act and the Child Right Laws at the state level (25 states have domesticated it) are all laws. There is a national policy on child labour and a National Action Plan on the elimination of Child Labour. We have more than enough. Implementation and enforcement remain critical issues in the fight against child labour.” 

She suggested that the government must show commitment by monitoring the implementation of policies, enforcing laws and mobilising communities to ensure children are in school or learning skills.

Meanwhile, the adoption of Project Zero by the Lagos State government to tackle the problem of out-of-school children in the state stillbirth questions as to the efficacy in reducing street hawking.

This story was supported by the US embassy via the ATUPA fellowship by Civic Hive

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1 Comment

  1. Mfonobong Daniel

    I think this issue is becoming uncontrollable. I think the government should set up special initiatives to accommodate these people. From this, it may curb this issue.

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