By Francis Ekpone and Tobenna Iloghalu
About 15 children hawking during school hours were on Tuesday apprehended in different parts of Awka, the Anambra state capital during a special crackdown on child labour as part of activities commemorating the 2018 Child Labour Day.
The Commissioner for Children and Women Affairs, Lady Ndidi Mezue, who led the operation during a sensitisation walk, said the state government is poised to intensify its clamp down on children hawking during school hours and to prosecute offenders.
Though, the arrested children were later released to their parents, the commissioner warned parents to desist from abusing the children, threatening to invoke the child’s right law on any parent that flouts the law.
She noted that the steering committee, comprising the Nigerian army, police, DSS, National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), Immigration officers and some lawmakers recently inaugurated by her ministry, have been given the mandate to ensure full implementation of the Child’s Right Law in the state.
The International Day for Child Labour celebrated yesterday in the state and organised by an NGO, Integrated Anti Human Trafficking and Community Development Initiative (INTACON-AFRICA), saw the commissioner, the zonal commander of NAPTIP, Mrs. Comfort Gboko and other members of the command, serving corps members in the state, security agencies and other stakeholders in attendance.
The event marking the 2018 World Day against Child Labour was flagged off by the commissioner for Child and Women’s Affairs with a sensitisation walk which commenced from the Nigerian Red Cross Society office in Amawbia through Zik’s Avenue, Awka and terminated at INTACOM-Africa corporate office, Aroma junction, Awka.
Addressing the participants, Lady Mezue said she was pained that parents let their wards hawk in the street when they should be in school.
She revealed that the state would soon begin a tour of private children’s homes in the state to ensure that they provide a conducive environment for the children.
“The Anambra state government is determined in this fight against child labour. The essence of the march is not just to sensitise parents against child labour but also to issue a warning that any child caught hawking when he or she should be in school will be apprehended and turned over to the appropriate authorities.
“Their parents will also be arrested on grounds of child abuse and will face the full wrath of the law,” she said.
The commissioner, however, cautioned guardians against sending only their biological children to school while their house helps are sent to hawk, noting that any parent who has a child at home should ensure that they are sent to school.
In her opening remarks, the Executive Director/Founder, INTACOM-Africa, Hope Okoye, stated that the World Day against Child Labour was observed to ensure that child abuses, particularly child labour was stopped all over the world.
According to her, the campaign against child labour is being carried out because of the harmful nature of child labour.
Speaking on the theme of this year’s day; “Generation: Safe and Healthy”, Okoye noted that the need to ensure the safety of children had become pertinent as young children are faced with varying degrees of abuses which would have aserious negative impact on their development”
On her part, the Zonal Commander of NAPTIP, Mrs. Comfort Agboko, pointed out that the government is collaborating with the United Nations (UN) to ensure that parents send their children to school and not hawking.