Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government is set to ban the Almajiri system, as part of long term plans to solve security challenges in the country.
Almajiri is a system of Islamic education practiced in northern Nigeria and derived from an Arabic word, rendered “al-Muhajirun,” in English transliteration, meaning ‘a person who leaves his home in search of Islamic knowledge.’
The Almajiri ban is to ensure that no child is deprived of basic education in Nigeria.
Briefing State House Correspondents at the end of the inaugural National Economic Council (NEC) meeting of 2019-2023, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd), said groups like the Almajiri were becoming a problem to the society.
Monguno, who briefed in company with the governors of Anambra, Willy Obiano, Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu, Adamawa, Amadu Fintiri and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said he also pointed out to NEC 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 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.
“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, as criminals, drug addicts, etc. 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 proscribe 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 replied: “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 state governments 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…
“Imagine the child that was 10 years old on July 27, 2009. In 37 days time, it will be exactly one year when Boko Haram erupted, 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 short and long term, to overcome this problem, like I told you earlier on, to overcome this problem, you require collective efforts. We must work in sync with the rest of the international communities; how many countries that operate this kind of system. Let 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 told newsmen he also briefed NEC on the North East, particularly on Boko haram, in relations to the security issues in the country.
He said: “I briefed Council on the situation in the North East, particularly the activities of Boko Haram, which continue to remain very fragile. It is still a problem that needs to be re-addressed; with collective effort of 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 Lake Chad.
“I also briefed NEC on the activities of 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…
“Finally, I also emphasised to Council, the need to conduct police reforms. The police is 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 issue of insecurity are not the traditional issues we know in the last century, those issues that were cut and dried and we could easily deal with these issues. Today, it is too complex to allow one organ of government to deal with these issues.”
Meanwhile, Monguno has denied knowledge of the whereabouts of the $1billion approved by NEC, for tackling security challenges in the country.
The money was approved in December 2017, following rise in the Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen menace, kidnappings, banditry and armed robbery.
In response to a question on what has been done with the $1 billion, the NSA, who coordinates Nigeria’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.”
Regardless, Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is also chairman of the Nigeria Governors, had, when he briefed newsmen earlier this month said the $1 billion, which raised dust among state governors, had been expended.