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Tension mounts over invasion of Almajiri

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BY LAOLU AYOOLA

The continued movement of itinerant quaranic education child beggars, popularly known as Almajiri’s in large droves across the country, despite the restriction on movement beyond state boundaries, is causing anxiety across the country.

It would be recalled that the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF), with the support of the Federal Government, recently agreed to repatriate all the child beggars to their various states of origin, as well as restricting their movements within their locality in a desperate bid to curb the spread of Corovavirus.

According to a government source from Kwara State who did not want his identity revealed, the boys, noted for roaming cities and towns while begging for alms to help offsett part of the cost for their quaranic training, were identified as potential agents for the spread of Corovavirus, hence the decision to rescrict their movements.
The governors greatest fears were suconsequently confirmed when a sizeable number of the boys tested positive to the dreaded virus.

The Special Adviser, Media and Communications to Kaduna State Governor, Mr Muyiwa Adekeye, told Business Hallmark that 90 percent of the COVID-19 patients currently in the state’s isolation center are Almajiris recently repatriated from Kano State.
According to him, 65 out of the 169 almajiris brought back to the state tested positive for the virus.

“We received 169 almajiris from Kano, of Kaduna State origin, and we immediately quarantined them because of the situation that we are aware of in Kano.
“Out of the 169 so far, 65 were positive for coronavirus, representing 90% of recorded cases in Kaduna,” he said.
Adekeye, however, disclosed that over 30,000 had been repatriated to their states of origin from Kaduna.

Also, seven out of 38 Almajiri children repatriated to Bauchi from Kano tested positive for coronavirus. The situation is the same in almost all the states in the North, with many returning child scholars particularly from Kano testing positive for the virus.

However, despite the introduction of lockdown and the ban of interstate travelling by the government, there has been reported cases of people from the north, particularly Almajiri’s, still moving to states in the North and the South in articulated vehicles meant for conveying cattle in the dead of the night.

The development, BH learnt, is causing tension and anxiety in states with officials accussing security officials of undermining the restriction order for selfish interest.

In the last one week, several lorries and buses loaded with Almajiri’s, have been intercepted in several states, particularly Lagos, Abia, Ondo and Delta by security forces and turned back.
On Tuesday, the Abia State Homeland Security Outfit, led by Homeland Security Commissioner, Prince Dan Okoli, intercepted Almajiris hiding in cattle trucks on the Enugu-Abia border, along the Enugu-Aba Highway.

According to the state Information Commissioner, Chief John Okiyi-Kalu, several trucks carrying food with several almajiris hidden in them in the night were returned at the same border before Tuesday’s interception.
The commissioner said the state government has ordered more national security officers to be deployed at one of the borders with Akwa Ibom State, following the interception of another truck carrying Almajiri along with goods destined for Akwa Ibom state.

It would be recalled that the state government had alerted citizens earlier Monday that it received an intelligence report on the planned move by a group of Almajiris to the state within the next 24 hours.

Also, no fewer than 150 travellers including Almajiri children were intercepted in three vehicles by security operatives along the Abuja- Kaduna Road on Wednesday while attempting to move into Kaduna State from the Federal Capital Territory, (Abuja) and Nyanya in Nasarawa State.

The state commissioner for Human Resources and Social Development in the state, Hafsat Baba, said other Almajiris were also intercepted in Soba and Giwa Local Government Areas of the state.

According to her, out of the 150, 90 are from Kano State, while the others are from Nasarawa and Birinin Gwari Local Government in Kaduna.
She further explained that all the non-indigenous Almajiri and other travellers have been returned to their states, while those from Kaduna have been quarantined for a period of 14 days.

Baba stated that the ban on inter-state travels at this moment is still in full force in Kaduna state, warning that any unauthorised person coming into the state will be sent back or quarantined for 14 days.

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Reacting to the continued movements of Almajiri’s accross state borders, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) lambasted the agencies saddled with the task of enforcing the restriction, arguing that security agencies must live up to their responsibilities by stopping violation of the ban on interstate movements.
NGF’s Head of Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, said security agencies had the responsibility of enforcing the ban on interstate movements.

“The guidelines for the lockdown made exemptions for the movement of agricultural products, foodstuff and pharmaceuticals. It did not include the movement of human cargo.
“Security agencies have the responsibility for enforcement of these guidelines and it is expected that they enforce these rules. Where they find people taking undue advantage of this provision, they are empowered by law to take actions in line with approved rules of engagement”, he said.

Meanwhile, Kaduna State Governor, Nazir El-Rufai, has revealed that the almajirai system has ended in the state.

He said his administration was also reviewing state laws to ensure the system remained dead, adding that parents of almajirai were being educated to take up their responsibilities and send their children to school.

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