Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal government is set to proscribed Al-majiri system as part of a long term plans to solve security challenges in the country. The ban is to ensure that no child is deprived of basic education.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of inaugural National Economic Council (NEC) meeting of 2019-2023 chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Mungonu, said groups like the Almajiri were becoming a problem to the society, ending up becoming criminals, drug addicts and tools to be used by elements in the wider society who have very dangerous intentions.
Monguno who briefed alongside the governors of Anambra, Willy Obiano; Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu; Adamawa, Amadu Fintri and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, also pointed out that drivers of insecurity in the country included unemployment, under-employment, poverty and increasing population.
The NSA said: “I also briefed council on the drivers of insecurity which are unemployment, under-employment, poverty, drugs abuse, rising population.
“I also made suggestions regarding the way forward which include, employment creation and reduction of poverty, and bringing down the culture of impunity and looking at stabilising certain areas of the country by giving rise to affordable education. This is very important because in most parts of the country, we have a lot of children roaming around without any formal education. And as the president has mentioned earlier while he was inaugurating the national economic council, we need to make education compulsory and free for every child in the country because the problem we face today are rooted in the fact that a lot of people who have been denied the opportunity … basically the opportunity to get formal education end up over the years…, there is accumulation of large mass of human beings who end up becoming criminals, drug addicts and so on and so forth. And they end up becoming tools to be used by elements in the wider society who have very dangerous intentions.
“And therefore, it is very important to proscribed certain groups ultimately running around under the guise of maybe getting some kind of education that is not really formal and then begin to cause a lot of problems for society.”
Asked to mention the groups to be proscribed, Mungonu said: “The group I spoke about on illiteracy is the Almajiri. Ultimately, government will have to proscribe this Almajiri phenomena, because we cannot continue to have street urchins, children roaming around, only for them in a couple of years, or decades to become a problem to society. We are not saying that they are going to be contained in a manner that you might think we want to do something that is harmful to them, no. What we want to do is to work with the states government to enforce the policy of education for every child.
“It is every child’s right – his entitlement so long as he is a Nigerian. If you recall what happened in the Western region, I think in the 50s and the 60s, when the premier made education free and compulsory at both primary and secondary levels. This is what we are looking at.
“Let me tell you something, one of the element of national power is the population of a country. You don’t just rely on your armed forces, the location and so on and so forth. The population is a very critical element of national power. It is from the population that you get a critical mass.
“Imagine the child that was 10 years old on July 27, 2009, in 37 days’ time, it will be exactly 10 years when Boko Haram erupted; so he will be 20. We are not talking of one child, there are millions of them. So, when we look at population, as an element of national security, don’t be surprised if out of every 100 Almajiri, you have two neurologists, four architects, two lawyers, and so on and so forth. If you don’t start thinking in the short and long term, to overcome this problem…, like I told you earlier on, to overcome this problem, you require collective efforts. You can’t carry this load and drop it on top of the government, even government should not work as a one-legged tripod, it has to be three-legged. We have to deal with the issue of these children, Almajiri, regardless of how people feel about it. We must work in sync with the rest of international communities; how many countries that operate this kind of system? Let’s be very, very sincere to ourselves; we have to look at this issue that we have been sweeping under the carpet.
“So, when I briefed the NEC, I alerted them on the dangers of this phenomenon and the president in inaugurating NEC also stressed that we must make education free and compulsory. We are not trying to denigrate any group of people.”
Monguno said he also briefed council in the North East particularly Boko haram issue in relations to security in the area.
He said: “I briefed council on the situation in the North East particularly the activities of Boko Haram which remains very fragile. It is still a problem that needs to be re-addressed with collective effort of both intelligence and operations.
“In the meantime, troops of the multinational task force have been conducting offensive operations against these elements in the Lake Chad area especially the Islamic State West Africa Province, whose activities have now stretched all the way down into the Lake Chad area.
“I also briefed council on the activities of armed bandits and elements who have gradually entrenched themselves in the landscape. I also told council that the activities of this armed bandits were gradually replacing terrorism, which was the primary security threats. Now, the bandits in the North West have become major threats to national security. Of course in recent weeks, the Nigeria Police Force has made a lot of gains in dealing with these criminals.
“I also briefed council on the activities of the herdsmen/farmers. Their activities are limited to 16 states so far, but council is working on the blueprint; it is on the verge of releasing this blueprint to solve these problems. It is a complex problem but it is about to be resolved within the council.
“I briefed council also on the militants and pipeline vandalism, illegal oil refineries and piracy. In recent months, we were able to destroy 373 illegal refineries and curtailed the activities of pirates. This situation in the Niger Delta is also affecting security in the Gulf of Guinea, and we have been collaborating with the secretariat in Rwanda to work to reduce the activities of these people. So, basically, we need not just domestic, but international effort to deal with this situation. The Federal government has invested much in setting up maritime domain monitoring facilities and hopefully in the next couple of months, we should be able to set up all these structures to reduce the activities of these people.
“Finally, I also emphasised to council the need to conduct police reforms. The police are the lead agency in dealing with any internal security problems. Any domestic issues should actually be vested with the Nigeria Police Force.
“Fortunately the IG is doing a fantastic job especially looking at the issue of community policing. Basically, the society in today’s contest, the issues of insecurity are not the traditional issues we knew in the last century – those issues that were cut and dried, and we could easily deal with them issues. Today, it is too complex to allow one organ of government to deal with these issues. Today, we need a whole government, a whole of societal approach right down to the lowest level in which individuals at the local level are able to interface with the police and give them intelligence because dealing with asymmetric situation requires first and foremost human intelligence to support technical intelligence so that these issues can be combated.”
Meanwhile, Monguno denied knowledge of the whereabouts of the $1billion approved by the National Economic Council (NEC) for tackling security challenges in the country.
The money was approved in December 2017 following spiralling insecurity in the country, especially Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen menace, kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery.
There has been apprehension, however, over whether the fund had been released, when and for what purposes.
Amid the controversy, the Nigerian Army said the money was still being processed.
While responding to question on what has been done with the $1 billion, the NSA who coordinates the nation’s security architecture, said the money was meant for the military alone, but not aware if it had been released.
“The $1billion I believe that you are talking about was actually earmarked for the military, not for security agencies, like the intelligence community and the paramilitary agencies.
“It was earmarked for the military. As much as I know whether it was given to them, I really don’t know.”