Street begging booms despite ban on Almajirai by Northern governors
But Kaduna, Kano go tough
No serious street beggars in Benue
The decision by northern states to end street begging and evacuate the beggars from the streets appears to have hit the rock, as the practice continues unabated despite the ban in most of the region.
A team of Arewa Voice correspondents deployed in the cities of the North, reports that most of the state, which initially indicated their tough stance against street begging with threats to take them off the streets, have since backed down, paving the way for the practice to flourish.
However, Arewa Voice finds that in Kaduna, the state government has maintained its tough stance against street begging by demolishing the area that used to house the beggars while Kano State has built and equipped more than 15 new centres to accommodate the Almagiris in order to make the policy to work.
Findings by our correspondents show that despite the declaration by the governors in the first quarter of the year to ban street begging, the absence of political will by them to enforce the policy has been responsible for the flop.
It was also gathered that the outbreak of the coronavirus and the lockdown imposed nationwide by the federal government in a bid to checkmate the pandemic and prevent deaths, diverted the attention of the northern governors from the social malaise.
For instance in Niger State, while the state governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, vowed to ensure full implementation of the new policy, no action has been taken to enforce it despite the declaration by the governor.
Although the state has 34 Quranic/Islamiya schools with a population of about 5,338 Almajiris with most of them engaged in begging, the government appears to have been constrained from moving against them due to sentiments being expressed by many religious leaders across the state.
That notwithstanding, the State Commissioner of Information, Alhaji Mohammed Sani Idris, warned that though the Almajiri system is not banned in the state, any beggar found on the street would be promptly arrested and repatriated to their states of origin.
Idris said, “The State government is aware that most of the beggars roaming our streets are not indigenes of this state and any of such caught would be arrested and transported to their states of origin immediately while we will also trace their parents and get them arrested.
“We are putting in place a lifetime structure that will stand the test of time so that the steps we have taken this time will not fail as in the previous years.
“Niger State government has the political will to implement the Policy effectively but we will still collaborate with other states to ensure that the Law is pursued to the letter,” the Commissioner declared.
The Niger State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Nasara Danmalam warned that necessary laws were being put in place to enforce the order no matter how long it takes so that the state would not become a dumping ground for beggars once other northern states begin to apply the same policy.
But street begging is reported to have significantly reduced in Kano following the application of the ban on Almajiris and the relocation of beggars to their states. For that reason, only a handful of beggars are now seen in smaller groups of four and five unlike in the past when they swarmed the streets in large numbers for their trade.
The beggars can still be seen around Kofar Kabuga in Gwale LGA, Rijiyan Zaki in Ungoggo LGA, Gadama in Kumbotso LGA and along Audu Bako Way before Central Hotel in Tarauni LGA among others.
The Kano State Commissioner of Education, Muhammad Sunusi Kiru, told AV that the state was putting finishing touches on the evacuation of the Almajiri children from the streets to put an end to street begging in the state.
“We will continue to evacuate them. It is an ongoing exercise. We are just on our way back from the inspection of Almajiri integrated boarding schools now; we are trying to put finishing touches so that we will continue the project of evacuating and repatriating Almajiri back to their states.
“Those from Kano State we have provided enough facilities to accommodate them for their Qur’anic studies and formal education.
“We are going to enrol all of them from Kano origin while those from other states will be sent back to their states as we have started already.
“We have repatriated about 1,500 Almajiri children and we received 1, 178,” Kiru said.
In another development, the Commissioner said the state government had approved the sum of N159 million for the rehabilitation of three Almajiri boarding schools where the Almajiri children (indigenes) will be housed.
But in Adamawa, the problem of beggars has been compounded by the influx of foreigners from neighbouring Cameroun and the Central African Republic into the state, thereby stifling the resolve of the state to end street begging.
The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ahmadu Fintiri on Basic Education, Alhaji Saidu Komisiri lamented that street begging has subsisted despite all attempts to stamp it out from the society due to the transformation of the practice from religion to culture.
Komisiri, however, admitted that it would be difficult to effect the removal of Almajiris from the state at once given the long history of the practice and the sentiments associated with it.
“The Almajiris system has transformed into a negative phenomenon where the under-aged who were sent to read the Holy Book are recruited to do all sorts criminal activities like insurgency, armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping, sodomy among other crimes”,
“Our government policy is to ensure that the Almajiris, IDPS, and others who are currently roaming our streets are sent back to school. With this policy, over 50, 000 of such children have been sent back to schools,” the governor’s assistant declared.
In Jos, many beggars still walk the streets in search of ‘customers despite the ban imposed by the state government.
The beggars in Jos still move in large groups and beg for alms especially along Ahmadu Bello Way, Murtala Mohammed Way, Rwang Pam and other busy streets, Terminus and Bukuru markets, motor parks and entrances of restaurants.
Some Islamic clerics like the Deputy Chief Imam of Jos Central Mosque, Sheikh Ghazali Adam and operators of Islamic schools like Malam Hamza Uwais and Malam Umar Yakubu have frowned at the continuous street begging in the name of almajirai, saying only responsible parenting and conscious government efforts would assist in repositioning Islamic education and curb street begging among indigent kids who seek to acquire such education.
But the State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dan Manjang told Arewa Voice that efforts were being intensified to eradicate the trend.
His words: “The project of evacuating the almajirai from the streets is on course. It is not about the Plateau State government but about the 19 Northern Governments. The programme is on course. We are still on it, if we find almajiri on the street, they are profiled and returned to their home state,” he said.
But in Kaduna, the menace of street beggars has been largely contained by the state government. The ban on their activities can be described as effective especially in major towns across the state where operatives of the state environmental and traffic agency, KASTELEA, mount all-day surveillance.
This is because in places where the beggars used to control as their operational base, known as ‘Almajiri colony’ along Kano Road, has now been demolished by the state government.
With the demolition, most of the beggars were forced to relocate to their states of origin. That notwithstanding, recalcitrant beggars are still on ‘duty’ in communities on the outskirts of the state capital.
And, in Bauchi, it is more talk and less action regarding the removal of beggars from the streets of the state.
Despite the threat by the state governor, Bala Mohammed to flush them from the streets, beggars are still seen begging with ease in the capital.
Apart from repatriating over 1000 beggars to their states, Bauchi also received no fewer than 1500 almajiris from other parts of Nigeria into its fold.
In Taraba State, the situation remains unchanged regarding the removal of beggars from the street.
The state appears to have been contented with receiving beggars of the state origin from other states than sending those within its domain back to their own domains.
Arewa Voice check reveals that the Almajirai are still active within the state capital begging for aid as if nothing has happened.
They move in groups and are mostly found around food stalls in search of what to eat especially along the Old FRSC office.
The state Commissioner for Information, who is also a member of the COVID-19 committee, Danjuma Adamu, told Arewa Voice that the state only received evacuees from Nasarawa state.
According to him, “We only received some of these Almajiri who were indigenes of this state and were brought in from Nasarawa.
“They were all tested to be sure they were free from COVID-19 and after receiving their results, they were all handed over to their various local government chairmen who then moved them to their respective places.”
The commissioner said the evacuation of beggars was halted due to the opposition from human right groups who accused the state of violating the rights of children to move freely and fend for themselves.
But in Benue, the state appears to be lucky with no serious operations of beggars across the state capital as is the case in other northern states.
Written by Kartia Velino