• Junaid Muhammad Calls For Arrest Of Security Operatives At Border Posts Over Almajirai
• Borno Profiles Beggars For Database, Instead Of Repatriation
• Plateau Sends 128 To Bauchi
The Kaduna State Government has attributed the majority of COVID-19 cases in the state to travel history, saying such illegal inter-state travel was widening the spread of the virus in the state.
A statement by the government, yesterday, explained that the illegal travel has increased the danger of community transmission, as infections have “now been recorded in some mainly rural local governments on the borders of the state.”
On his part, elder statesman and Second Republic lawmaker Dr. Junaid Muhammed, has called for the arrest and prosecution of security operatives at the borders between states that allow Almajirais to be concealed in trailers like cows to smuggle to southern states.
Most of the beggars were dislodged from the north, starting with Kano State, as governors in the region moved urgently to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, ostensibly forcing these pupils trying to find new havens in the South, not minding the lockdown, curfew and ban on inter-state travels.
Speaking against the backdrop of recent discoveries of such beggars in trucks and trailers bound for the Southeast and South-South states, who were ordered back to their places of origin, Muhammed said his views in the past 60 years on the issue has not changed, adding: “I don’t believe the Almajirai is necessary, I don’t believe it is politics or religion, I don’t believe it is in the interest of our country to allow this unhealthy phenomenon.
“It is economically counter-productive, it does not help in developing the country or developing the young men who are the Almajiri. If they are brought up to be Almajiri, most of them do not know the Koran, they don’t know modern education, they have no trade, no job, and they have no training. So, as far as I am concerned, it is an abuse of these children who are brought up to be Almajiris.”
In Borno State, the government has said the street kids have neither been “received nor repatriated” to any state, but were instead being evacuated over Coronavirus pandemic.
The state’s response team, led by Deputy Governor Umar Kadafur, is to profile Tsangaya schools into a database, as government would be guided by “caution and human face approach,” according to the Commissioner for Information, Babakura Jato, while briefing journalists on the issue in Maiduguri, yesterday.
But the Plateau State Government evacuated 128 of these kids to neighbouring Bauchi State, in line with the earlier directive by Governor Simon Lalong to return them to their various states of origin.
The exercise, led by the Chairman, Plateau State Committee on Profiling, Ban and Evacuation of Almajiris, Col. Salisu Inusa (rtd), commenced yesterday at Government College, Jos.
The 128 Almajiris, between six and 17 years old, was said to be coming from Shendam Council in a truck conveying bags of maize, with the intention of sneaking into Bauchi before they were intercepted by the security personnel.
The Kaduna State government, in a statement signed by Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communications, Muyiwa Adekeye, said: “The Standing Committee on COVID-19 appeals for the vigilance and active involvement of all citizens in the effort to avert this peril.”
The statement recalled that many citizens of Kaduna State have endured inconveniences and consistently complied with the restriction of movement, including the prohibition of non-essential interstate movement, regretting that these sacrifices were being jeopardised by the actions of persons, who violate the Quarantine Orders, and the misconduct of some law enforcement officers who have facilitated and indulged this pattern of inter-state travel.
“The state government continues to engage the leadership of the concerned agencies on these dangerous lapses, given its consistent support for the security agencies posted to the state,” he added, just as it was feared that the state’s health system could be easily overwhelmed if community transmission occurs, as the situation in neighbouring states has shown.
The statement noted that government was compelled to blockade many of the entry points and deployed its senior officials from their other vital roles to personally man these borders, adding: “The Committee appeals to the vast majority of law-abiding citizens to continue to expose and report persons engaged in inter-state travel or who sneak into their communities.”
Muhammed said it is important to realise that if the Almajiris decide to get married, there is a responsibility attached to that marriage, if they decide to have a child, there is a responsibility attached to them, as far as that child is concerned.
“The idea that you can decide to get married and start producing children like rats are simply uncalled for and in the long run, a criminal offence, as far as I am concerned. Bringing up a child in this modern age of the 21st Century who is not educated, who knows nothing about religion, who knows nothing about any profession is also a crime against humanity.
“So, as far as I am concerned, whatever the inconveniences these Almajiris are subjected to, I am all for it, because I want it discouraged and at some point in the near future, I want it to be completely stopped because we have the people who have refused to really stamp their feet on the ground to put a stop to it, simply because they don’t have the political will.”
He explained further: “Secondly, there is also the idea that because of our liberal nature, you can travel all the way from Lagos to Maiduguri to Sokoto to Calabar without being harassed because they take advantage of that to go and now have so many colonies of Almajiris in so many places where the culture is not there.
“The Almajiris may be innocent, but those who facilitate their journeys should be arrested and jailed. Unless we put our foot down, we are not going to have an end to this criminal phenomenon.”
The Borno State official said the Almajiris need empathy and sympathy, being victims of a situation they did not create, adding: “They are victims of a situation they could not create and do not even understand the problems they are facing since they came into the state when they are at the ages of three to five.
While lamenting the state of the Almajiris, Jato said: “Most of the affected children left their parents at a tender age and are taken to local Islamic clerics for Koranic recitations, but could not locate their states of origin, not to talk of their homes.”
He said collectively concentrated efforts to make life more meaningful to the street kids would have been better in light of their predicaments in the present approach of repatriation, which is not in the interest of unity even among the 19 northern states, saying: “The Nigerian constitution made it clear that citizens are free to reside anywhere in the country, without molestation.”
For the Almajiris in Plateau, Inusa said the committee accommodated and fed the 128 since their arrival while making arrangements to take them back to their state to unite with their families.
At the transit camp, he revealed that the state also received 99 Almajiris evacuated from Nasarawa State to be re-united with their families in Plateau.
Before the 128 Almajiris left the state in the company of the committee officials and security personnel for Bauchi, Inusa assured them that they could have a brighter future learning both the religious and Western education with their parents.
In Kogi, the state Police Command Public Relations Officer, William Aya, said officers had been working round the clock since the news of the influx of some Almajiris into Lokoja, but have not been able to apprehend any of them.
“We have not seen any Almajiri, but we would continue to mount surveillance at strategic locations in the state to prevent any influx,” he assured.
Speaking with The Guardian in Lokoja, Executive Director of Initiative for Grassroots Advancement in Nigeria (INGRA), Hamza Aliyu, insisted that Almajiris were only being conveyed to their states of origin by various state governments in government branded vehicles through official routes.
“The Kano experience has shown that if unchecked, migrant populations from highly COVID-19 endemic states have grave consequences for the host population. We are really looking at a potential explosion of community transmission of the virus if these movements are not curtailed.”