Major stakeholders have decried the incessant abuse and child labour in cocoa industries, especially farmers in Ogun State and other parts of the South West.
They spoke at a stakeholders’ forum on the Campaign Against Forced Labour in Cocoa Industry in Nigeria Programme held in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
The forum, organized by the African Law Foundation (AFRILAW) in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), had dignitaries from the sectors.
The forum revealed the outcome of investigations of forced labour in Cross River, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, and Oyo states, expressing concern over the growing trend.
The Executive Secretary and Chief
Executive of the National Human Rights Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu, said there are currently 86.6 million child labourers in Sub-Saharan Africa, and two main causes of this in low-income nations are family poverty and inadequate school infrastructure.
Represented by Mrs. Olayinka Odibe, Ogun State coordinator, National Human Rights Commission, he said “We all know that Forced Labour is a violation of Human Rights where people are forced to do work that they have not agreed to under the threat of punishment. Forced Labour is a contemporary form of slavery which
contravenes Section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria adopted in 1999 as amended.
“Every individual is entitled to have respect for the dignity of his person. Section 34(1)(C) states that no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labor.
“The Ogun State government has also signed the child’s rights law which provides free and compulsory education for children; they want to be free from harm, safe and healthy; they want the sanctity of their morals preserved and respected.
“Any violation of these norms would have inherent elements of force and breach the fundamental rights of the child to proper education and development.
In response, Apostle S. T. Williams, the state chairman of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria, said that while the abuse was not typical in their association, they would nonetheless go back to the villages to educate the farmers.
“We shall go back to our various villages and do the campaign; I assure you that it is not common in our association because we have been telling our farmers that they should not use their children but instead spend their resources on educating them.
“What is happening is majorly caused by the state government because they are not helping the cocoa farmers in terms of funds and necessary equipment to work. At the end of the day, after processing the production, they are left with little or no funds, so instead of engaging labourers, they prefer to use their children to minimize cost.
“But like I said, it’s not common in our association, I want to call on the government to come to the assistance of cocoa farmers in terms of finance and other necessary things.”