During the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan, he made it a point of duty to end Almajiri street begging in Nigeria. To achieve that, he built Almajiri schools across Northern States. But sadly, those structures were abandoned to rot away.

Sometime in April 2013, Goodluck Jonathan had a meeting with some of the Northern leaders, on the necessity to grant amnesty to the extreme Boko Haram sect. At that time, Boko Haram had moved from its nursery stage to primary stage.

But his intention raised a lot of mixed reactions from different groups. And one of the most bewildered responses was the response that one of the leaders of Boko Haram gave. He said, “It is the President that needs amnesty and not Boko Haram.”

Today, that same Boko Haram Sect has metamorphosed into a full blown terrorist group, one of the most dangerous in the world (in terms of death toll). There are now concerns from some quarters to grant amnesty to apparent repentant members.

Is militancy the same as terrorism? Does it follow that since late President Umar Yar’adua granted amnesty to the Niger Delta Militant group, President Buhari should do same with repentant terrorists?

I think most Northern elites/leaders have failed the North in their responsibilities. The ugly situation in Northern Nigeria today should be blamed on Northern elites/leaders.

For the sake of clarity, the word Alma Jiri is from the Arabic word, Al-muhajirin. Literarily, it denotes the migration of Prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. The concept was a system of catechesis where children left their biological and native homes to learn about Islamic religion in distant lands which were totally alien to them, and they were meant to take care of themselves. But since the means was out of reach, they resorted to begging, and whatever amount they were able to make determined their means of livelihood (Cf. THE ALMAJIRI SYSTEM AND VIOLENT EXTREMISM IN NORTHERN NIGERIA by Oge Samuel Okonkwo).

Painfully, such children continue with such a lifestyle without the necessary concentration to learn, and the act of begging eventually becomes an occupation for them. Thus, when they are grown up they survive by begging. Worse still, because the knowledge being acquired cannot be channeled into gainful production, they become economically bankrupt. This is because they had not learnt the general formal system of education, how to farm, trade, and be productive in other areas of life. Consequently, the result would be communities dominated by lazy able bodied men. Little wonder then that they can easily be enticed into criminal activities or become vulnerable to any contagious disease like coronavirus when offered peanuts.

The Almijiri system of operation does not regard social distancing, nose masks, hand sanitizers, and other precautionary measures. This is because they live a life of begging, and they can easily contract the virus through money and close contact with those from whom they beg.

Furthermore, many of them are homeless, and they live in unkempt environments. A clear case in point was the recent repatriation of Almajiris I saw on Television in Nasarawa and Gombe States respectively, where a good number were seen without nose masks and without maintaining social distancing principles.

I dare say therefore that the Almajiri system is one of the greatest evils that has befallen the North.

Unfortunately, in spite of the clarion calls to abolish it, many Muslims see such attempts as a direct affront on Islam. Moreover because almsgiving is a very important tenet in Islam, the rich need the poor to fulfill such obligations.

Now that the coronavirus pandemic has further exposed the hidden agenda of some Northern leaders in sustaining the Almajiri system, there is now a massive repatriation of Almajiris back to their States of origin in the middle of the pandemic, against Federal regulation.

Now that the Almajiri system has become a pain in the neck for some Northern States, they want innocent Nigerians to feel the same pain by scattering them around in the name of repatriating them. Is this the best way of taking responsibility during a pandemic? Lack of responsibility towards Almajiris by those leaders, should not only be regarded as wicked, but most importantly as inhuman. Man’s inhumanity to man!

Northern leaders should not forget quickly that their primary responsibility is to protect human lives. That is why they are regarded as Chief Security Officers of their States. Are Almajiris not humans? Do they often forget to collect their monthly security votes as Chief Security Officers of their States?

Leaders of other geopolitical zones must see this as a wake up call. They must not take responsibility for what they did not bargain for. They must rise to the occasion and ensure the safety of those already in their various States.

It is no longer news that there are large numbers of people from the North trying to find their way into other parts of the country amidst this pandemic.

I have received several calls from home of the influx of many Northern youths into our community. Not only that, I have received video clips to further justify the claims. This is not the time for freedom of movement and association.

It is rather the time for restrictions and social-distancing as necessary precautions. Leaders of other geopolitical zones must therefore do everything possible to vigilantly intercept nonessential persons trying to make way into their States from States that are already endangered by the virus.

In the final analysis, let us hope that with this untimely act of repatriation of Almajiris by Northern leaders, when the storm of coronavirus is over, Almajiri system will be a thing of the past in Nigeria.

We are watching!

Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP