*Under-aged child beggars called almajiri in northern side of Nigeria begging on the streets
After many years of deluding themselves and causing untold pain to the Nigerian system with a useless and meaningless religious practice, which makes no sense in modern society living, governors of northern Nigeria under the auspices of Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) has finally banned the almajiri system in the region.
The governors announced this on Tuesday while discussing the region’s response to combat the dreaded Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. They have come to the realization that allowing the almajiri system to continue means the government will never win the war against the unseen enemy called COVID-19. The almajiri system is an Islamic practice in Nigeria, which allows parents to give birth to children but abandoned on the street as underage to beg for survival. However, this practice is not the norm in Saudi Arabia, which is the headquarters of the Islamic religion.
Many well-meaning Nigerians including the deposed Emir of Kano, Sanusi Mohammed Sanusi have spoken up against this unhealthy practice in Nigeria but each time they did, it was met with resistance and branded religious insensitivity by Muslim Nigerian folks. In Nigeria, Muslim religion encourages men to marry multiple wives so it is common practice for such men with multiple wives especially those with lean income to give birth to several children they cannot cater for, which they force on the street to go and beg. Bad as the practice is, the north has refused to condemn system because the underaged children have been used to rig elections in Nigeria over the years.
Even in the last elections the saw President Muhammadu Buhari become Nigeria’s president, these almajiri underaged children were seen voting in their thousands in northern Nigeria even in the presence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who ordinarily supposed to be a dispassionate umpire in the country. From all indications, at least judging by the last meeting of the NGF, it does appear that northern governors have woken up from their slumber to ban almajiri system.
The NGF meeting, which was the second of its kind since the outbreak of the pandemic, was presided over by its Chairman, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State and was conducted through the new normal – teleconferencing. Out of the 19 northen stste governors, 17 of them participated in the meeting. Lalong’s Director of Press and Public Affairs, Macham Makut, the governors discussed COVID-19 test centres within the region and noted some improvement but insisted that all states in the region should have at least one centre in order to make the detection of the disease and its management easier and faster.
The statement read in part, “On border control and lockdown measures, the governors retained their earlier decision for each state to decide on the measure to adopt but reaffirmed the need for border closure to stop the inter-state spread of the disease in the region. The governors also discussed the risk that almajiri children are exposed to due to the virus and they unanimously decided to ban the almajiri system and evacuate the children to their parents or states of origin.
“They vowed never to allow the system to persist any longer because of the social challenges associated with it including the perpetuation of poverty, illiteracy, insecurity and social disorder.” The statement also said the governors engaged the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammed Sabo Nanono, on COVID-19 incentives available to farmers in the country and how those in the region can benefit from the palliatives, amongst other issues that bother northern Nigeria.