Linus Oota, Lafia
Nasarawa State is now gradually sliding into serious crisis as beggars popularly called “almajiris” have taken over major streets. There is also growing concern over the rising insecurity ranging from kidnapping, armed robbery and other banditry activities.
The spate of kidnapping and armed robbery is a source of concern for the hapless citizens, the government and indeed, the international community.
Beggars are now dropping their bowls for bullets and guns, and the innocent citizens of are the victims. The state is now a dangerous place to leave from the standpoints of kidnapping and banditry.
A survey by our correspondent in places such as places of worships, filling stations, restaurants, super markets and traffic junctions showed that most of them within ages 10 to13 wake up as early as 6am moving house to house begging in the name of Allah. They would do that till late as 10pm.
The “almajiris” grow up in the streets without the love, care and guidance of parents. The struggle for survival exposes them to abuse. They are used as slaves, brainwashed and recruited for anti-social activities threatening the peace of the society.
The state government has banned street begging. The Emir of Keffi, Shehu Chindo Yamusa, recently told an expanded security meeting: “Streets begging is separated from the Almajiri system of education, the state and Jamaatu Nasir Islam (JNI) go against street begging. Almajiri is a system that existed over 300 years ago, and was used by most Islamic scholars for education.”
He disclosed that government and JNI would set up a committee to take inventories of teachers, schools and inspect and identify them.
Commissioner of Police, Bola Longe, security agencies resolved to collaborate with the traditional rulers to end criminal activities: “We have constructed a strategy on how to work together with traditional rulers, on how to mobilise their subjects to feed us with useful information for effective policing.
“Criminal elements would not be able to operate anymore, because we have a comprehensive programme that would checkmate their antics, kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery have been drastically curtailed. We have made up our mind to tackle all the exit routes to Nasarawa State to track out criminal elements.”
Almajiri is Hausa word for immigrant child in search of Qu’ranic education. The children are sent out early in life to seek Islamic knowledge outside their environment. They are placed under Islamic teachers known as Mallams under whom they are supposed to learn the rudiments of the religion.
In most cases, and due to the high level of poverty and the large number of children the Mallams have to cater for, they are often not able to take adequate care of the children. Thus, they are sent out to search for means of livelihood.
They look poor, dirty, ragged, destitute, deserted with cracked lips, crumpled legs (due to long distance of trekking) and hungry face. They eat anything from left overs, junks and even garbage. They are exposed to sickness, diseases, child abuse and other vices.
They are referred to as “street children” due to the way they wander along the streets begging for food, clothes and other necessities. They are very vulnerable, because of the lack of care and weak foundation given to them. They are innocent children who have become unfortunate victims of societal neglect.
They are let loose to drip and get down in the unfathomable sea of corruption, ignorance and poverty. They are often hypnotized, hoodwinked, coerced or simply hijacked to play active roles in many of the banditry activities going on in the state.