A problem identified and acknowledged, they say, is a problem half solved. This seems to be the truism pertaining to the practice of the age-long Almajiri system in the northern part of the country.
Even though there have been outcries against a system considered debasing to humanity, there have been resistance surprisingly from some clerics who believe that the practice is ‘divine’ until when revered Islamic scholars and highly rated traditional rulers began to debunk such.
The need to take the children off the street re-echoed recently at the National Conference between Future Assured Initiative and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs at the State House Conference Centre.
The Future Assured Initiative is a non-governmental organisation (NGO), a pet project of the First Lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari, dedicated to the welfare of women and children. The NGO has been at the head of the campaigns to rid the streets of children beggars and free and compulsory education for the minors, especially the girl child across the country.
The latest congregation of stakeholders, including President Muhammadu Buhari, state governors, traditional rulers as well as the council of the Ulamas with a single preoccupation to find a lasting solution to the mystery of the innocent children on the streets promised to be impactful. The gathering equally bemoaned the high rate of divorce, leading to despondency among the womenfolks, particularly in the northern parts of the country.
The Sultan of Sokoto, HRH Sa’ad Abubakar, who is obviously the torch-bearer of Islamic religion in the country, lamented that there have been several symposia and religious based debates to address the twin issues of irresponsible fatherhood and uncontrolled divorce , especially among the Muslims, but with none among the state governors implementing their resolutions.
Stakeholders submitted that even though the Holly Book did not condemn polygamy, practitioners must be able to satisfy the conditions attached before indulging in the practice.
Of course, the practice of polygamy was identified as one of the reasons for production of multiple children without parental care leading to the multiplication of poverty and out of school children.
Speakers at the event lamented that even those with the wherewithal to practice polygamy have refused to to so as they pointed at the Sultan, who upholds the standard in Islamic religion in the country, having just one wife. Another referred to the President, also a devout Muslim, as husband to one wife and few children.
The Sultan expressed frustration at the refusal of state governors to take urgent and proactive actions to take the children out of the streets and enroll them in schools. He urged the government to curb the preponderance of Almajirism as its continued practice constitutes a great danger to national development.
He pointedly called on the President to direct the state governors as he said “I have seen her (First Lady) concern especially that of almajiri and numerous problems facing this country especially in the north. There should be implementation of resolutions reached at this particular programme. We have always said we are not short of recommendations or resolutions at various conferences and fora but what we lack is implementation. We hardly implement what we have agreed to do.”
He continued “Mr. President as the Commander-in-Chief, as a retired general and I know you are not tired, I think you should give matching orders to governors of the federal republic of Nigeria to implement decisions reached at this conference and all our conferences. If not you have that big stick on any of the governor who refuse to do a,b,c,d on what you instruct them to do.
I believe we must pass that stage of having these high level meetings, come out with excellent recommendations on how to solve problems and then go home and sleep. We must start solving our problems because nobody from any part of the world will come and solve the problem for us.
Issues of drugs, high rate of divorces amongst our people is a serious issue that concerns all of us. Why do we have high divorce rate, why do we have so many people not married?”
Emir of Kano, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, as usual, spoke vociferously against the practice of child marriage, irresponsible fatherhood, Almajirism, wife battery and divorce.
He said “everyday wives are complaining about their husbands who claim their rights but abandon their responsibilities of marriage. Women being divorced with their husbands not taking care of the children and those children ending up on the streets, drugs, political thuggery, violent extremism.”
He criticized some 12 states of the federation that opted to adopt Sharia law in 1999 but left out the nitty-gritties outside of the Muslim Criminal law
He said “No law that talks about consent in marriage, the rights of wives and husbands, domestic violence , rights of women divorced , the responsibilities of husbands under divorce situations. If a child is found on the streets, it’s the father that is responsible and can the state hold him accountable?”
Sanusi continued “The reason Allah send His Prophets is that there should be justice in this world. Justice in our relationship with our maker and in our relationship with our fellow human beings.
“Justice means that everyone is given his rights. If a man takes the privilege of being the head of the family, he takes the responsibilities of being the provider for the family. You cannot take that privilege and abandon the responsibilities.
“Is it a fact that a father has the right to force his daughter into a loveless marriage? that you have the rights to batter you wife? you have the right to have children and push them to the streets to beg? that when you divorce your wife, you ask her and her children to pack and go back to her father’s house and that is the end?
“I can spend 100 years saying that it is wrong and un-Islamic for a man to beat his wife. But it is the Governor and the State House of Assembly that should pass the law; it is the Courts and the Police that will make sure that the woman gets justice. The Scholars and Emirs cannot do that.
“It is only the Governors who can pass the laws to say that when a man divorces his wife, it is his responsibilities to provide for the children; it is the Courts and Security system that will enforce.”
To the Emir, fathers who chose to be irresponsible, should be held liable for any child apprehended on the streets. He also proposed a legal framework that will criminalize the practice.
So, when news came from Kano and Nasarawa states that the government have moved to criminalize child begging or Almajirism, the hope for a better society was rekindled.
It was equally reported that some states in the north are considering the policy of free and compulsory education for children of school age. Good as these initiatives may be, the starting point should be the domestication of the Child Right Act (CRA) in the north.
It could be recalled that the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan established Almajiri schools in some northern states. This initiative should be fine-tuned and incorporated in the Buhari’s administration’s school feeding policy to lure the hungry children from the streets once and for all.
The Ooni of Ife, HRH Enitan Ogunwusi, in search of solution to the Almajiri system suggested that economic initiatives be provided for the people to engage in after prayers. “If you pray alone without anything to back it up, it is tantamount to destroying a particular community. It’s not only about prayer but about what value you are providing,” he said.