The National Human Rights Commission has called for the development and implementation of a program of action by Northern states governments to permanently address the challenges posed by the almajiri system.
In a statement by its Executive Secretary, Mr Tony Ojukwu, the NHRC noted that almajiris were exposed to increased vulnerabilities and risks including death, trafficking, kidnapping, drug use and addiction, recruitment into terrorism, violent crimes, sexual and other forms of assault and forced/child marriages.
Ojukwu said almajiris suffer multiple violations of rights, which runs contrary to the provisions of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, the Child Rights Act, the Child Rights Laws (applicable to some states), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and other international human rights instruments relating to the protection of the rights of the child.
The statement reads, “The commission calls on Northern states governments to develop a multi-sectoral program of action for the transfer, return and rehabilitation of almajiri children.
“A major step towards achieving this will be an obligation on the part of affected states to put in place financial, institutional and programmatic frameworks to urgently address the needs of almajiri children.
“Further to this, the commission also calls for adequate protection programs, basic support services and empowerment programs to address poverty and other socio-economic vulnerabilities that made the parents to send out the children in the first place.”
The NHRC further enjoined states to “put in place adequate plans for the enrolment and retention of almajiri children in schools, including access to existing programmes such as school feeding and free education aimed at addressing the educational needs of the children in line with their rights to basic and compulsory education as guaranteed under the CRA and the Universal Basic Education Act”.
The organisation also enjoined state authorities to ensure that actions targeting the transfer, relocation and rehabilitation of the almajiris are in the best interest of the children.