More than 15 million Nigerian children under the age of 14 are working, mostly to help pay for the cost of going to school, according to a new survey by the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS).
The survey, conducted with support from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), showed that over eight million of the country's working children were also attending school.
These children said they were forced to work part time in order to pay for their school fees and books. However, they admitted that the need to earn money often caused them to skip classes.
Head of the FOS, Ahmadu Umani, said on Tuesday that the survey showed there were 7.8 million boys and 7.2 million girls between the ages of five and 14 working in Nigeria.
The country has an estimated population of more than 120 million.
The survey showed that about six million of the working children were not in school at all. Nearly one million of these had been forced to drop out due to poverty or because their parents demanded that they work in order to boost the family income.
Of the six million children not attending school, 51 percent were girls and 49 percent were boys.
However, the survey found that more than eight million children were working and going to school at the same time.
About 61 percent of working children were able to remain in school because they saved money from their work to pay for their education, it said.
However, many children in this category said they often skipped school because of the demands of work.
“This indicates that working children lose valuable school days,” Umani said.
The survey found that working children in rural areas engaged in activities such as agriculture and hunting, while those in towns were often street traders or apprenticed to artisans. Most started working between the ages of five and nine and continued into adulthood.
The FOS chief said the report was intended to provide information that would be useful in designing “various government intervention programmes, or projects and policies on child labour”.
He said there was urgent need to fight against child labour in Nigeria, not only by mounting a sustainable public information campaign, but also through policy measures.
Nigeria signed a memorandum of understanding with the ILO in 2000 for cooperation in implementing the International Protocol for Elimination of Child Labour.
Subsequently, a national programme on the elimination of child labour was created.
This set up a monitoring system to gather data on child labour practices in Nigeria.
This known officially as the Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour. It is managed by the FOS and conducted the survey just published.
There is no legal minimum age for starting work in Nigeria, but the ILO recommends that children should be in school until the age of 14.