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Coalition denounces forced movement of Almajiri, says it poses health risk

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A coalition of civil society organisations and activists have condemned the on-going forced movement of Almajiris by some states in Northern Nigeria by deporting them to their states of origin.

The coalition, led by Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN) in a statement noted that the movement of the Almajiris from one state to another is a major public health risk in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.

“The governors of the Northern states claim that the deportation of the Almajaris is to curb the spread of Covid-19 and enforcement of the lockdown orders in the states. On the contrary, the deportation from a state with COVID-19 cases such as Kano State without prior testing and isolation, portends grave risks in the spread of the virus across states.

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“Instructively, the five new cases reported in Kaduna few days ago by the Nigerian Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC), were Almajiri deportees from Kano state,” the statement read.

According to HRAN, the deportation of the Almajiris is illegal and unconstitutional because every Nigerian, irrespective of his or her status, is entitled to the full enjoyment of the fundamental human rights in the Constitution. Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees the right of every Nigerian to reside anywhere in the country.

The coalition said: “These forced movements constitute violations of their right to respect for the dignity of their persons guaranteed under section 34 of the 1999 Constitution and the right to personal liberty protected under section 35 of the Constitution. Also, targeting the Almajiris as a social group for deportation is a violation of their right to protection against discrimination, which is provided under section 42 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

“A citizen cannot be deported from his/her own country. It is a gross violation of
his/her right as a citizen. It is unlawful for the government of any state to forcefully deport or move any person or group from one state to another against their will. It is unconscionable that the governments of the concerned states who are supposed to take care of the education and welfare of the Almajiris are maltreating them.”

The coalition however warned that the continued dehumanizing of these children will have far reaching security implications for those specific states and the entire country, adding that Nigeria has an obligation to adequately protect and promote the rights of a child under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, duly domesticated in the Child Rights Act.

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