Historicizing child wage exploitation in Nigeria




Agbo, Chukwuemeka Christian

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Agbo’s focus in this report is three-fold—to challenge the use of western concept of child labor in defining child work/labor in Africa, to highlight the colonial origin of child wage exploitation in Nigeria, and to examine the pervasiveness of child wage exploitation in Nigeria since the dawn of the twenty-first century. He argues that child labor in African culture differs from the western interpretation of child labor, defined as using children to make money, especially in often hazardous work environments and conditions. Agbo privileges the idea of child labor based on African cultural ideas, which sees child labor as work (domestic or otherwise), socially reserved for children as a social instrument of child training, social integration/socialization, and preparation for adult life. Using children to make money referred to in this report as child wage exploitation, in Nigeria, has its origin in the exploitive economic policies of the colonial government. Agbo argues that these policies forced child labor out of its socio-cultural boundaries, by drafting children into exploitive work environments. Prominent among these policies were; the Native House Rule Ordinance and the Roads and Creeks Proclamation of 1901 and 1903, respectively, which made labor for public purpose compulsory for all men from fifteen to fifty-five years old. To meet the demands imposed by these laws as well as social and individual/family responsibilities, the peoples of Nigeria pushed child labor beyond child education to income generation, a situation that has continued into the twenty-first century. Poverty, harsh economic condition of the country, and corruption, among other issues, are major reasons for the persistence of child wage exploitation in Nigeria. And, until these issues are tackled, the hope of a society free of commercial child workers may never be realized.



LCSH Subject Headings