Sparing a thought for Lagos child hawkers
Sir: Lagos, at places such as Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road, Ikoyi-Obalende, Ojuelegba-Stadium, Oyingbo, Carter Bridge, Idumota, Oshodi, Ketu, Mile 12, Third Mainland Bridge, Cele, Iyana-Ipaja, Agbado, Oke-Odo, Ikeja among others, it is not uncommon to see little children of about 9-13 years hawking goods on the roads. Some even take up the hazardous task of bus conductors.
These children who hawk by the roadsides usually suffer from fatigue, irregular attendance at school (if enrolled at all), lack of comprehension and motivation, improper socialization, exposure to sexual abuse, high likelihood of being involved in crime. Roadside trading, especially by children of school age, is a negation of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and also not in accord with the Lagos state social protection services.
It is, indeed, inhuman for anyone to engage a child in money making venture as seen every day on our roads with children running after moving buses and cars to hawk goods. Aside that, such children are denied basic education which is another important right of every child. Many children have sustained lifelong injuries through street trading and hawking. Moreover, children who engage in hawking or other forms of hard labour may physically wear away before they actually reach the productive age in the economy. Many of them have died as a result of hawking on the highways.
With all the environmental menace and insecurity associated with street trading, it is quite obvious that it could birth other social and security problems. It should be stressed that Nigeria has enacted legislation concerning child labour within the Labour Act and has also adopted the Child Right Act (CRA) (2003). A key provision of the CRA is that on using children for hawking is a punishable offence under the Act while Section 59(b) of the Labour Act prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16 years in any work which is dangerous and injurious to their health.
It is in the light of this that the Lagos State government has the responsibility to execute policies that conform to best practice, that can mitigate environmental nuisance and the security threat which street trading poses to its citizens. It is also essential for parents to desist from engaging their children as hawkers on the highways. It is good for us to know that death arising from such venture amounts to a loss for the nation. If it leads to permanent incapacitation, it could result in heavy treatment cost by poor parent, loss of educational opportunity to the child hawker and liability to the community and the nation as a whole. For this, our collective efforts should be geared towards securing a better future for our children.
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