Aliyu, Abuja’s Child Mechanic Mirrors Nigeria’s Child Labour Profile

The dawn breaks over the bustling city of Gwarinpa, Abuja. Nine-year-old Aliyu (not real name) eagerly prepares for another day at the mechanic site. Amidst the towering high-rises and ceaseless traffic, Aliyu forges his path, driven by the hope of creating a better future for himself and his family. However, his story sheds light on the harsh reality of child labour in Nigeria. In this report, Gom Mirian highlights the urgent need for change.

Aliyu’s Background

Aliyu’s background and his journey into the world of mechanics reflect the broader issue of child labour in Nigeria, where millions of children are deprived of their right to education and forced into hazardous working conditions.

Aliyu’s parents, both petty traders, struggle to make ends meet for their family of four in the dense community of Dutse, an outskirts of the FCT. Unable to afford school fees, Aliyu never had the opportunity of a formal education. Instead, he spends his days at a nearby mechanic site, learning the intricacies of vehicle repair from the experienced workers. Despite his tender age, Aliyu proves to be a quick learner and becomes a valuable assistant to the older mechanics. Amidst the clanging of tools and the suffocating scent of gasoline, he pushed through his dream of a brighter future where he can break free from the cycle of poverty and provide for his family.

Child Labor Statistics in Nigeria

Aliyu’s story is not an isolated case but rather a reflection of the fast emerging issue of child labour in Nigeria. According to the International Labour Organization, an estimated 15 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are engaged in various forms of work in Nigeria.

These children are often subjected to hazardous conditions, depriving them of their right to education and a childhood free from exploitation. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where Abuja is located, is rife with child labour in agriculture, domestic work, mechanics, and street vending sectors.

Poverty and lack of access to education are identified as the primary drivers of child labour in Nigeria.

Another good example is Zainab, a 10-year-old girl found hawking groundnuts at an NNPC petrol station in Wuse, adjacent the Computer Village in Abuja. The little girl hawks her groundnuts during school hours. Like Aliyu, Zainab comes from a poor family and is compelled to work to support her parents.

Zainab who shares her story of balancing education with supporting her family explains, “I go to school in the mornings, but in the afternoons, I have to help my parents by selling groundnuts. It’s hard, but we need the money.”

Also, her friend, who asserted her ability to speak English despite not attending school, offered, “I can speak English too, aunty. Take this, I dash you,” as she gestured with a packet of groundnuts toward our correspondent.

When questioned about the name of her school, she shyly smiled and admitted, “I attend SS1,” before declining to disclose her name and running away.

She expresses her longing to be in school while selling her goods. Her story epitomizes the struggle of countless children who are denied the opportunity to receive a proper education and pursue their dreams.

The cycle of poverty and lack of access to education keeps children like Aliyu and Zainab trapped in a cycle of exploitation. Without proper schooling and opportunities for upward mobility, they are destined to continue the cycle of poverty that has plagued their families for generations.

Hope Amidst the Shadows

Despite the bleak reality of child labour, glimmers of hope can be found in the resilience displayed by children like Aliyu. His determination to succeed fills the hearts of those who witness his unwavering dedication.

Aliyu’s mentor, and one of the site’s senior mechanics, Mr. Ayo, recognises the potential within Aliyu. “He’s like a sponge, absorbing all the knowledge we share with him. Despite his young age, his skills are already surpassing some of our older apprentices,” he remarks with pride.

Reporter’s Encounters/Concerns

As I watch Aliyu diligently work alongside the mechanics at the site, his small hands covered in grease and dirt, I am reminded of the resilience and determination of children who are forced to grow up too soon. Despite the odds stacked against them, they continue to fight for a better future for themselves and their families.

I asked Aliyu what his dreams for the future were, and his eyes lit up with hope. “I want to become a master mechanic one day,” Aliyu says proudly. “I want to have my workshop and teach other children like me how to fix cars and motorcycles. I want to make my family proud.”

As I leave the mechanic site, I am reminded of the countless children like Aliyu and Zainab who are forced to sacrifice their childhoods to survive. It is a sobering reminder of the injustices that continue to plague our society, and the urgent need for systemic change to ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a quality education and pursue their dreams.

In a country as rich and diverse as Nigeria, no child should be denied the chance to fulfil their potential and break free from the cycle of poverty. It is up to all of us to work together to ensure that children like Aliyu and Zainab have the opportunity to thrive and succeed in life, free from the burden of exploitation and inequality.

Aliyu’s journey as a child mechanic sheds light on the pervasive issue of child labour in Nigeria. His resilience and determination serve as a testament to the untapped potential of children who are denied the opportunity to receive an education and pursue their aspirations. It is incumbent upon the society to address the root causes of child labour and create a supportive environment where every child can thrive and build a better future.

Only through concerted efforts and systemic change can we ensure that children likes Aliyu and Zainab are no longer deprived of their right to a childhood free from exploitation and hardship.


Most importantly, the government must ensure the implementation of the free and compulsory education at the primary and secondary levels. So that the Aliyus and Zainabs would not roam about the streets of the nation’s capital over the excuses of not able to afford school fees. The future, as they say belongs to the youths. But the planning and preparations for leadership roles should begin now through a solid foundation etched in a realistic curriculums of child education. Any responsible government places premium on the education of its youths. To act otherwise will amount to ruination of the nation.

Often times, the idea of leadership recruitment is advocated to mitigate the decades of leadership deficit that had plagued the country and also made it a laughing stock before the comity of nations. Now, the government has an opportunity to retrace its step, go back to the drawing board in order to get it right and sit confidently among nations exemplary track records.

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