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Garba Deen, child destitution and Niger Delta crisis

I agree with him absolutely, that corruption, infrastructure and the Niger Delta crisis are three of the biggest national problems bedeviling our country. But what makes the Niger Delta crisis a national problem if endemic poverty, rising illiteracy, child abuse and street begging are only northern regional problems? How can endemic poverty and rising illiteracy not be national problems?  Take the issue of the fight against some diseases for example. Western nations do not leave the fight against malaria and HIV/AIDS to African governments. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars in helping combat diseases in Africa. This is because they consider these diseases not as African problems but as “global” problems since it is humanity they affect.

In Nigeria and certainly everywhere else, any problem that affects the future of the youths negatively is, to put it mildly, a monumental national security problem. To say any form of child abuse, including the Almajiri problem that subjects millions of innocent children to a life of misery, begging and servitude and keeps them uneducated, in a country as rich as Nigeria, is not a national problem, I don’t know what is. Let’s not belittle these problems and try to wish them away just because we don’t drill oil out of them. Oil will surely finish one day, but our people will remain.

The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in its wisdom, brought to national attention, the need to nationalize the Almajiri problem, which basically is a Hausa culture mistaken for religion. The senate recognized that the Almajiri problem, though regionalized, is a unique national problem that needs to be handled specifically. Early last year, the senate passed a bill on child destitution, with specific reference to the Almajiri system, after second reading. The bill, sponsored by Senator Umar Tafidan Argungu (Kebbi North) and 39 other senators seeks for the establishment of a National Commission against Child Destitution. It also seeks among OTHER THINGS to introduce subjects like Mathematics, English Language, General Science, Social Studies and P.E. in the Almajiri Schools to go side by side Qur’anic education. It also proposes to place the Malams who own the schools on monthly stipends and introduce feeding of the Almajirai to curb begging.

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Those Almajirai who are passed school age, according to the bill, would be taught a trade of their choice. Although the federal government will establish the commission, the affected state governments would fund it with deductions made at source. Other funding agencies would include UBE, ETF and Donor Agencies.

Our Facebook Group: SUPPORT FOR SENATE BILL AGAINST CHILD DESTITUTION, made up of thousands of dynamic young people, has been at the vanguard of sensitizing various stakeholders in addressing the Almajiri issue. The stakeholders we have been contacting include Religious, Opinion, Political and Traditional Leaders and our sole aim is to galvanize people into action to support the bill, debate it at a public hearing and have it passed into law. Our experience with some of these stakeholders is however quite disheartening. We would however not relent even if they don’t give their support and may employ other peaceful means to fighting civil causes. But their entrenched parochial self interest would have been vividly highlighted.

We should always remember Professor Sam Aluko’s favourite adage: “The poor cannot sleep because he is hungry and the rich cannot sleep because the poor is awake.” For those of us fortunate, we may send our children to as far as Australia to study, but we should always remember that they will come back to the same society they left since they cannot create their separate society.

Mustapha Shehu (Mustash) childestitute@yahoo.com

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