Abuja, Nigeriá’s Federal Capital Territory, is ordinarily a city of splendour. Many of its inhabitants are powerful and stupendously rich. But for its under-performing social facilities, the nation’s capital would compete favourably with an average European city. In spite of its grandeur, some unfortunate children are living in squalor.
Caught in the web of poverty, which is foisted on them by unfriendly policies and corruption among the nation’s leaders, these kids are left with no choice than to go to the streets to fend for themselves. Consequently, child labour and abuse have become the order of the day in Abuja. These children are involved in various forms of businesses such as shoe making, carpentry, vulcanising, domestic service, cart-pushing and hawking.
In spite of the efforts of the authorities to tackle the problem, experts say the desired results have yet to be visible owing to the near absence of an effective social safety programme. While some of these under-aged children, owing to the fear of being arrested by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, have now relocated to the markets located in the suburbs such as Gwagwalada, Zuba, Utako, Dutse, Nyanya, others still carry out their activities within the city centre.
For instance, a visit by our correspondent to some of the markets located in the suburbs revealed that apart from hawking, majority of them have now found a new mode of making money: truck-pushing At the popular Gwagwa Market in Deidei, these underage children hire wheelbarrows for between N150 to N200 per day.
The wheel barrows, it was observed, were used to carry wares for customers who patronised the market. One of them who spoke to our correspondent said he had to do menial jobs because that was the only means of livelihood he had. The 11-year-old boy, who simply gave his name as Yakubu, said he had been pushing wheel barrows for the past three years. According to him, his parents could not afford to send him to school; hence, he decided to help himself by doing menial jobs.
“When I’m not pushing trucks, I follow my father to the farm,” he added. Yakubu said he always arrived in the market as early as 6 am everyday. So, he could hire a wheel barrow to perform his tasks.