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‘Hassan Katsina saw the ‘future’’

Alhaji Muhammadu Ibrahim (Danmasanin Biu and the National Publicity Secretary, Arewa Consultative Forum – ACF) · The first Military Governor of the defunct Northern Region…

Alhaji Muhammadu Ibrahim (Danmasanin Biu and the National Publicity Secretary, Arewa Consultative Forum – ACF)
· The first Military Governor of the defunct Northern Region and the late Ender Statesman, General Hassan Usman Katsina, had warned the North of the large-looming danger of the Almajiri abuse.
· A large population of these young Almajirai is now being transported to the South for child labour and other despicable social practices.
“In the days of our fathers, the Almajiri system was okay, but in the last 30 years here in the North a lot of our prominent elders denounce it. I remember the late General Hassan Usman Katsina, during his retirement age at many occasions complained bitterly about this issue of Almajiri being abused.
“You find that a Mallam will collect about a hundred or two hundred of the children between the ages of five and fifteen, sleeping in uncompleted buildings; and at the end of the day you find them roaming the streets, begging or being employed by some people as house-helps and so on. When you look at it broadly, you find that this is really an abuse of the child, which all meaningful organizations, groups and individuals have condemned.
“In about 2011, the Arewa Consultative Forum organized a 2-day conference called Unity, Peace and Development here in Kaduna. The issue of Almajirai came up at the conference. We expressed our concern with the growing number of small kids parading the streets in most of the state capitals here in the North. Even at that time there was this Boko Haram crisis which we felt it was these Almajirai that were misused and recruited into insurgency as militants.
“So, here at the ACF, we made recommendations to the Northern states governors: One, this menace of Almajirai roaming the streets must be arrested. The way to go about doing this is that the state governors, especially Northern states governors, should enact a law making the education of every child compulsory. Two, the states governments must also allocate a lot resources, at least the minimum 25 percent of their budget, which the United Nations recommends, to education to expand the schools and other facilities and provide infrastructure to accommodate these kids roaming the streets as Almajirai. We made a suggestion that if, by 2012, they were able to implement this, then the programme continues in phases, and that let us give ourselves, say, 10 years. In 10 years, that means by 2022, we should not have any child roaming the streets in the name of Almajiri. That was our proposal to the governors. We submitted this proposal to each of the governors. Afterwards, once in a while we go round the governors and enquire about implementation and, believe it or not, some of them will tell us that they are not even aware of the proposal because they have just taken over the mantle of governance. So, the problem is that of continuity.
“Generally, the situation is so despicable. For example, in Kaduna here, if you start from Kawo to this place (Sokoto Road, off WAFF Road), if you have a trailer (a truck) and you want to pack these kids, you can fill ten trailers (trucks). 90 percent of them hail from states up North. So, you begin to ask the child: why should your parents give you out at this age to be taken somewhere to read? And now you are not reading, because from morning to nightfall, you are in the streets; so when do you read? They will tell you they read in the morning before coming out. You hardly see them, as students of Quranic and Islamic knowledge, stopping at any Mosque to pray. They don’t! So, what are they teaching them? They are just roaming the streets collecting N10 from whoever cares to give them.
“During one of our Annual General Meetings, one of our Southern members was telling us that in Port Harcourt, there is a place where they are deposited after being ferried in trucks like goats to the South. Individuals go there, pay some money and choose the ones they want for either child labour or any God-knows despicable practices. After the Kaduna tollgate, on the Kaduna-Abuja express way, you will see these trucks loading kids from the age of five to 20. You will find 200 to 300 of them in a trailer (truck). I have seen this myself. If I ask: where are you going to? They will say they are going for Cirani (sojourning in other abodes other than one’s own native home in search of some fortunes). A child of five, ten or fifteen years going for Cirani? In cities like Abuja, you will see a lot of them sleeping beside the streets like goats. They are hungry, dejected and unkempt. Nobody cares about them. So, whoever wants to do anything with them, comes round, gives them whatever amount of money and takes them to wherever he wishes to and does whatever he wishes to do with them. They can be used as terrorists and other dirty things. Some of those going to the South for Cirani end up being initiated into cultism.
“So, the only ways out are: One for the states to enact a legislation to make education compulsory for every child; two, the states should commit resources to provide infrastructure that will accommodate even just about 30 percent of the children; three, our security agencies must be up and doing in stopping trucks ferrying these young children from one state to the other, especially to the South. They will not be infringing on their human right of freedom of movement, because a child of between five and 18 can really be checked. We have an agency responsible for human trafficking. It must also come in.
“People should know that with time, we are under threat of insecurity with the growing population of these kids roaming as Almajirai. As the society breeds a huge generation of these kids without proper education, parental guidance and skills, we will be under threat of terrorism, because we will have terrorists in our midst.
“We have been saying it in the ACF, it is never too late to start now. We are planning a Security Summit where we will discuss all these, including the current wave of kidnapping.”

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