TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
The Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) has expressed concern and condemned the manner almajirai are deported and rejected by some northern states’ governments, stressing that the children should be treated as human beings and Nigerians.
PAN, in a statement given to Daily Sun in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, captioned “Almajirai: Let the children live,” signed by the association’s president, Professor Edward Alikor, and secretary, Petronila Tabansi, said the children should be seen as vulnerable, who have not played any role in the present situation in the country.
The group noted that, though the attempt by northern states’ governors to modify the almajirai system was commendable, few cases from the implementation process had made the children victims of the ban, rather than beneficiaries.
PAN said it was regrettable that Nigerian children were being treated like pawns in a chessboard of political leaders.
It reads in part: “The Paediatric Association of Nigeria is concerned about the news report of many children, called the almajirai, evacuated from some states in northern Nigeria and being rejected and sent back by the receiving states.
“We regard the decision of the northern governors to modify the almajirai system as a well-directed step for the future and well-being of these children and Nigeria. The almajirai are known to constitute over 72 percent of the country’s 13.2 million out-of-school children.
“Paediatric Association of Nigeria also commends the responsible manner many of the states have handled the movement and resettlement of these children.
“However, at implementation in a number of cases, the very children that the ban is primarily targeted to protect appear to be victims of the ban rather than beneficiaries. Reports abound of these children evacuated to their states of origin, were refused entry or moved back to the state from where they came by the receiving states,” PAN noted.
It continued: “Paediatric Association of Nigeria would not pass judgement on any specific state on this matter. We also realize that in implementing a project of this nature, expected logistics and communication problems would arise.
“However, PAN condemns the situation where Nigerian children are treated as pawns in the chessboard of political leaders or as irritants on our shoulders to be casually, carelessly and defiantly shoved away in their own country,” the group stated.