Child Labor in Mining: NUMW Women Leader wants Aisha Buhari, Pauline Tallen, Adegbite to urgently intervene

President, Nigerian Union of Mines Workers, Comr Hamza Mohammed (7th Left), National Women Leader, NUMW, Comr Mrs Osomose Onize Elizabeth (4th from left) and other members of the National Executive Council of the NUMW shortly after they were sworn in in Abuja, recently.

The National Women Leader of the Nigerian Union of Mines Workers (NUMW), Comr Mrs Osomose Onize Elizabeth has called on the wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen and all women of goodwill to “save hundreds of children who are labouring in mine sites across the country.”

She called for intergovernmental synergy between relevant ministries and agencies, with the cooperation of operating mining companies and NGOs to address cases of child labor in the mining industry, stating that the menace has serious implications for social and economic development.

Onize, who gave the charge at the Year 2022 National Delegates Conference of the NUMW, in Abuja, at the weekend, tasked the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite on ensuring that foreigners and natives operating mines and quarries abide by the safety rules governing mining operations in the country.

While quoting the Minister of Women of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen as saying that “stakeholders must work together to revive the declining reading culture among children,” she expressed concern that a large number of children who should be in school are conscripted to assist in mining, stating that it has serious implications for national development.

“As women and mothers, we cannot forget the Zamfara tragedy where we lost over 400 children to lead poisoning.”

“When there is calamity, children are most vulnerable and we expect that government and operators take cognizance of this,” she said, stating that if there are laws that limit the ministry of mines and steel development from safeguarding children, relevant authorities should do the needful by seeking the amendment of such laws in the interest of building the Nigeria of our dreams.

“As mine workers, we see how foreign and indigenous operators perpetuate grievous anomalies against our fatherland without regard to extant laws, and we wonder what the regulators of the industry are doing,” she said, stating that regulators of the mining sector need to do more to protect the interest of the country.

While saying that the situation may be better in the FCT, she noted that regulation of mining operators in other states of the federation is less effective, noting that quarry operators have continued to jettison the need to provide helmet, safety boots and other protective wears for workers.

“As workers, we don’t feel safe, we don’t feel protected by the laws because a lot of foreign operators operate as if Nigeria has no law governing mining operations.”

According to the women leader, “priority should be given to women in public and private sector to travel overseas for training and educating seminars,” adding that “it is wrong to believe that women are weaker vessels.”

While emphasizing the importance of women inclusion in mining sector governance, the national women leader commended Gov Yahaya Bello of Kogi State for appointing women into prominent positions in government.

She said: “The appointment of Hajiya Ozavize Suleiman as chairperson of Kogi State Minerals Resources Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO) is a plus to the development of the sector and women folk.

She further commended the Sole Administrator, Ajaokuta Steel Company, Engr Sumaila Abdul Aka’aba for demonstrating expertise that has led to the operationalization of some units of the integrated steel project.

The women leader however commended the Federal Government for creating a enabling environment for mining business, while calling for specific policy effort to increase the participation of women in the sector, noting that it will catalyze the realization of the economic diversification agenda.

“We are happy that the few women in mining business are making us proud.

“We want to see more women engaged in business: We want women to establish more quarries and mine sites, we want them to be employers of labour, and we want to have more women driving the sector in matter of policy-making and as operators.”

Onize called on women groups to work together and identify special roles they can play in the ongoing efforts of government to diversify the economy through the mining sector.

Discussing the capital-intensive nature of mining investment, the women leader appealed to government to create special incentives for women who are operating in the industry, stating that there can be more tax waivers for start-ups.

Osomose encouraged established women entrepreneurs to support new entrants. “We can dialogue and train each other so that we can strengthen ourselves on the knowledge of mining business,” she added.

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