Muslim leaders reject governors’ plans to resume Almajirai evacuation

Almajirai are still on the streets of major northern cities despite the decision of the Northern Governors’ Forum to ban  them.

Our correspondents in Sokoto, Gombe, Katsina, Zamafra and Kano states  sighted  the Almajirai  on the streets, begging for money and food.

Prominent Islamic scholars in the North opposed the northern governors’ decision, saying the Almajirai system could not be outlawed.

Some of them said efforts by previous governments to ban the system failed. According to them, the current attempt by the forum will  not succeed.

But there were indications on Sunday that  northern  governors would soon resume evacuation of the Almajirai.

The Coordinator of the forum secretariat and Secretary to the Plateau State Government, Prof Danladi Atu, who gave the hint in an interview, said there was no going back on the evacuation of the pupils.

The  forum had, at a teleconference   conveyed by its Chairman and Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, on April, 21 agreed to stop the Almajiri system as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

But four months after the forum reached the agreement, findings showed that the Almajirai are still in cities and towns in the North begging for alms.

In Katsina, the Katsina State capital, Almajirai  were seen in  Sabo Kasua, New Garage, Kofar Durbi , Kofar Marusa  and  Kofar Kaoran, among others.

One of them, 13-year-old Lawan Ishiaku, who said he was from the Charanchi Local Government Area of the state, disclosed that  he had been begging since he was nine years old to take care of himself.

Commenting on  the development,  some Islamic scholars in the state  called on northern state governments to fashion out a system that will recognise the Almajirai Islamic education.

Khalifa Quaraniyyun Katsina, Sheik Ismaila Alkashnawi, in an interview with one of our correspondents, suggested that government should establish a body similar to the Universal Basic Education to coordinate Islammiyya and local islamic schools (Makaranta Alo).

He stated, “If truth be told, Almajirai cannot be outlawed. The concept has been going on since the time of our great prophet, Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). My advice to the northern governors is that they should set up a body just like we have the UBEC and SUBEB that will solely be charged with the responsibility of overseeing the Almajirai issue.”

The Islamic scholar stated,  “Almajirai derive from the concept of a person, who leaves the comfort of his home/town and goes to another town in search of knowledge. We in Nigeria, however misconstrue an Almajiri to mean professional beggar. Almajirai are individuals who could be adults or  small boys seeking Islamic knowledge.

“There is a sharp difference between professional beggars who go to markets   to beg for money and Almajirai who are undergoing Islamic studies. I am telling you, 95 per cent of  people begging are not Almajirai. They are professional beggars.”

Another Islamic scholar and preacher of Khalifa Abdullahi Naaba, Makaranta Abba-Abba, also said  the system  could not  be outlawed.

He stated, “That is how we met it and it shall continue. The governors should rather seek the advice of   Islamic scholars and Ulamas on how they would go about the issue.

“It is true some Almajirai engage in street begging, but the majority of them do not engage in begging. Some kind-hearted people willingly give them materials and money. Some engage in farming while some engage in menial jobs to survive instead of begging.”

The Katsina State Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria and Chairman of National Trustee Committee of Jama’atu Izalatul Bid’a Wa Iqamatus Sunnah, Sheikh Yakubu Hassan, said Islam is against begging and it does not support parents not meeting their children’s needs in terms of shelter, feeding and clothing.

In his reaction, Governor Aminu Masari’s Special Adviser on Employment and Chairman, Committee on the Almajirai, Hussein Karaduwa,  said government was already looking into the issue of Almajirai and would soon come up with a stand on it.

In Sokoto, some Almajirai were sighted roaming the streets of the metropolis begging for arms.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammed Aminu,  who led a group of six, at Dadin Kowa restaurant, opposite Pinnacle Hotel in Sokoto, said, “We roam about the streets begging for food to eat. We don’t need money but, food for survival.”

An Islamic  cleric in the state, Ustaz Sani Zakiru, said, “It will be impossible to eradicate the Almajirai system because it is part of Islam to seek and acquire knowledge. The system has been an age-long practice, where kids migrate to seek knowledge in Quranic Studies, under a Mallam.”

A fiery cleric in the state, Mallam Bello Jauro, labelled those in support of eradicating the Almajiri system as anti-Islam.

He said, “How can I support the stoppage of Almajirai? Was it not through Almajarai teachings from Mallams those against the system now, learnt about the Quran? Anyone supporting this is against Islam. What has happened to previous plans to hijack Islamic teaching from us and merge it with Western education?  This one too will also fail.”

In Gombe State, it was observed that there were Almajirai  begging for alms. It was  also observed some   had taken to weeding farms.

The state Commissioner for Education,  Dr Habu Dahiru, said the state commenced  evacuation of the Almajirai as directed by  the forum.

He said, “Some that are seen roaming  the streets are not necessarily Almajirai. They are just children that are out of school. If you see a child out of school, it doesn’t mean he is Almajirai.”

Also, the Almajirai are back on the streets of Kano, despite their proscription by the state government. They were sighted at Farm Centre, Audu Bako and  the road leading to the Government  House, among others.

The state Commissioner of Education and Chairman of the Almajirai Evacuation Committee, Sanusi Kiru, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the state  would soon commence the second phase of Almajirai evacuation from Kano to their respective states of origin.

In Zamfara State, checks by our correspondent in Gusau town showed that, the Almajirai were  in almost all the restaurants, markets and other business centres begging.

On his  part, Atu, in the interview  in Jos, said the northern states had not finished evacuating the Almajirai.

He said, “We are not done with the evacuation of the Almajirai. The Northern governors will soon meet and pick a date to resume their evacuation to their respective states of origin, but that will  likely be  after the Sallah break.”

He explained that the movement of the Almajirai was temporarily halted in compliance with the directive of the  Presidential Task force on COVID-19 which placed restrictions on inter-state movements.

The NGF coordinator said, “So, there is no going back on their evacuation because it is the collective decision of the 19 northern governors and it is something that they have started already to implement before the executive order on inter- state movement came.

“So, the Northern governors are still meeting and they will meet again to reevaluate the situation. So  the governors will have to review the (COVID-19) protocols again before the next phase of evacuation begins and we are hoping that after the Sallah break, they will meet and take a date on that.”

On its part, the pan-northern socio-political organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum on Sunday expressed disgust over the way and manner  the Almajiranci system was being practised in the North.

The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Emmanuel Yawe, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Kaduna, said the system must not be allowed to continue in the region if it was not reformed.

The ACF spokesman said, “The decision of repatriating Almajirai to their states was taken by the Northern Governors’ Forum and we have no quarrel with that because we don’t believe in the Almajiranci system.

“We support that decision. But the only problem is with the implementation. The implementation is very clumsy and the governors should sit up and implement in a proper way.” – Punch.

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