The immediate-past Secretary-General of Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, has faulted condemnations that greeted the influx of almajiris to Southern Nigeria, saying many Southerners also earned their living by moving to the North.
The Arewa Consultative Forum is a political and cultural association of leaders in Northern Nigeria formed in 2000.
Sani, who spoke in an interview with SaharaReporters, said the North had never complained when Southerners moved to their region to earn a living.
The ACF chieftain also described as mischievous an allegation made by an Igbo group that almajiris moving to the South-East were being sponsored by some Northern elements to attack communities in South-East.
He said, “The people regarded as almajiris being exported to the South may not be almajiris after all, but youths in search of greener pasture in the South, just as there are millions of people in the South-East in the North who have settled and have been able to invest in the North as their means of livelihoods.
“Not all of them are good citizens. Among them are bad eggs who have become kidnappers and armed robbers. The North has never accused the South of exporting kidnappers and armed robbers to the North. This is precise because every society has its share of bad eggs.
“Therefore, it would be wrong to regard northerners who go to the South in search of greener posture as sponsored almajiris for the express purpose of causing trouble in the South. This is most unfair. Anybody who makes such an allegation is either very ignorant or is obsessed with mischief.”
Sani said Northern leaders were already working towards addressing the plight of the almajiris.
He commended the move by the Northern governors to send almajiris back to their home states.
The ACF chieftain however, said the timing was wrong, owing to the Coronavirus pandemic.
He added, “Almajiris are Muslim youth sent by their parents to go and learn Koran in schools manned by the Islamic teachers, some of whom are not properly trained. The schools are not properly organised. The net effect is that many of the youth do not have the benefits of parental training about societal values and of formal education.
“As a result, human capital is wasted and the products become a nuisance to society. The culture of asking for alms for survival by the almajiris also makes them lose their sense of dignity. More distressing, many of them become canon fodders for insurgence, kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery, cattle rustling and herdsmen/farmer clashes.
“It is against such backdrop that there have been agitations that the concept of almajiri, as presently practised, is not following Islamic practices. It is not good for the almajiris themselves and is not good for society.
“And to organize the system of almajiri properly, if it cannot be banned, was what informed the Northern governors’ decision that all almajiris be returned to their states of origin which can organize them properly.”