Outrage after cleric housed 17 female Almajirai among boys in Zaria

Posted by News Express | 10 May 2020 | 1,352 times

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As the 19 northern states repatriate almajirai to their various states of origin as a means of curtailing the spread of coronavirus in the country, a new dimension to the almajiri system was discovered in Zaria, Kaduna State.

One Aliyu Maikwari, an Islamic cleric, was found to be keeping 17 girls in the midst of hundreds of boys he claimed were from Kebbi State.

Following a tipoff two weeks ago, the Kaduna State Government, through the Ministry of Human Services and Social Development, stormed the cleric’s mud house cum Qur’anic school, where he camped about 500 children, including the young girls, who are between the ages of 8 and 10 years.

The cleric had tried to resist arrest and it took the efforts of security agents from the state’s Operation Yaki to detain him and evacuate 327 children, including the girl.

The remaining children, according to government officials, had escaped during the operation.

But it was learnt that they have started returning and would equally be transported to Kebbi. At the time of the arrest, there were indications that the cleric had kept the children in poor living conditions, not minding their different sexes.

The Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba, explained that like other almajirai pupils who, for lack of accommodation, sleep in uncompleted buildings or open places, the children were exposed to several diseases, especially malaria, and often did not have anyone to take them to hospital.

Our correspondent gathered that Malam Maikwari had claimed he was keeping both girls and boys in his custody to teach them the Quran.

“To him, there is no difference between the boys and the girls because, according to him, they were brought to learn the Quran,’’ the commissioner said.

Our reporter could not speak with Malam Maikwari at the time of filing this report as he was in detention with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and under the custody of the Ministry of Justice as he would be charged to court.

Hajiya Hafsat told our correspondent that all the 327 children, including the girls, were handed over to the vice chairman of Soro Local Government Area of Kebbi State, where they hail from.

She said the cleric would be investigated and prosecuted. Malam Aliyu Maikwari was arrested by the Kaduna State Government for harbouring about 500 almajirai, including 17 girls between the ages of 8 and12 from Kebbi State

The children were handed over to their home state without being tested or quarantined. The commissioner said it was unfortunate that the cleric had kept young girls in the midst of male almajirai, even at a time of increasing rape cases in the state. She said the girls may have been subjected to sexual assault.

“Keeping those girls amounts to abuse and neglect. This is because the children had to go out to look for food; and we are not sure of their safety,” she said.

The Kaduna State Government said it had closed down the school and working out modalities to bring an end to the almajiri system, which subjects poor children to difficulty and danger, as well as denying them western education and exposing them to child abuse.

“People need to understand that they are only looking at one aspect of the system, which is learning the Quran as Muslims. But when you look at the social issues attached to it, you will find out that these children are in danger.

First and foremost, they are underage; secondly, they fend for themselves; hence they are exposed to danger.

Also, majority of them are violated, either sexually or through hard labour,” she further said.

The commissioner said the most challenging for the state was the role played by the children’s parents, who have neglected their responsibilities.

“You cannot just give birth to a child and hand him over to somebody who doesn’t know his value. And they move from one state to another or from one community to another. Sometimes, the parents even lose track of their children,’’ she added.

Hajiya Hafsat explained that with the present system of almajiri in northern Nigeria, children grow up without parental love and end up without good future.

“We want them to have quality education, access to good parenting, good upbringing and nutritious food, as well as access to health care in Kaduna State,” she concluded (Daily Trust)


Source: News Express

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