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Northern governors deporting almajirai to cut expenses

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More street urchins in Kaduna after over 31,000 deported
• Kano, Gombe govs warn against politicising COVID-19

Besides effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, there are indications that Northern states embarked on the deportation of almajirai to cut down on anticipated expenses.

Governors of the region last month had agreed to send the almajirai back to their states of origin. The states, however, appear to be deliberately cutting down on possible expenditure, unwilling to shoulder the responsibility of catering for an army of non-indigenes.

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Amid the drop in crude oil price and economic downturn, Northern states have no choice but to manage the meagre funds they receive from the Federal Government to fight the pandemic. Kaduna for example has since slashed its workers’ salaries by 25 per cent. Also, Kano recently requested N15 billion from federal coffers to fight the pandemic.

“The governors probably don’t have enough to cater for the almajirai and everybody is in need. Everyone has suddenly become a beggar. We all need palliatives. All states are looking for shortcuts, to reduce costs. Naturally, the almajirai are left at the mercy of their states now. Everybody is pushing out, to reduce the numbers, so that, at least, if there are palliatives, they can go round,” said Yerima Shetima, President of Arewa Youth Development Forum.

He added: “Had the governors done what they ought to have done, we wouldn’t have found ourselves here. For years, we told the governors that the almajiri system should be discouraged.The reason why they started the deportation is because of the abnormal situation on ground.

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“Fear of the unknown has made them (governors) realise it is dangerous to keep almajirai parading the streets. Now, they are compelled to do it. All is not well. This almajiri issue is the biggest problem we will have in future. We are going to have more Boko Haram in the future if measures are not taken on the almajiri system.”

But findings by The Guardian showed that even after deporting over 31,000, many almajirai are still roaming the streets of Kaduna. Some were found in the Kurmin Mashi and Badiko areas of Kaduna, making a living by doing household chores and collecting garbage.

The Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development Mrs.Hafsat Baba, however, said the evacuation was continuous and that the state would not rest until all the non-indigenous almajirai had been returned to their home states.

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She added: “We are taking their data and we even discovered that some among the almajirai have been to conventional schools and dropped out. The plan is to have them undergo psychological support and counselling. Before we also reintegrate them with their families, we are counselling their parents to let them know the importance of parenting.”

This came as the Kano State government yesterday cautioned Northern governors against playing politics with the pandemic and future of almajirai in the region.

Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje disclosed this during a media briefing on COVID-19 in Kano, where he accused some of his counterparts of political mischief.

Responding to questions on the discovery that hundreds of almajirai deported from the state allegedly tested positive for COVID-19, Ganduje said: “What those children need is care and not publicity.”

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He said Kano also had a fair share of almajirai from other states who tested positive. According to him, rather than join issues with anybody, the state administration simply placed the children in isolation centres.

Although he did not mention any names, Ganduje wondered why “some governors” would throw caution to the winds on the future of Northern children.

“Some of the almajirai were confirmed positive in other states just like we have them here too. But for us in Kano, we have decided not to make politics out of it. What we did was to take the children to isolation centres because what the children need is care not publicity.

“Kano has the largest number of almajirai from other states and it is the decision and resolution of the Northern Governors Forum to return these children back to their states of origin. From there, individual states will find solutions to their challenges. We are surprised some governors are playing politics with these children.”

Similarly, the Gombe State government yesterday warned against politicising the fight against coronavirus.

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In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Gombe, Commissioner for Information and Culture Ibrahim Kwami said: “It is unfortunate that in Gombe we politicise everything. Even this issue of the pandemic has been politicised. People look at the government and take things the other way round.

“Many people in the opposition view the successes being recorded by this administration as threats to their political future. Therefore, they are doing everything to undermine what the government is doing.”

He advised: “We should eschew all bitterness against one another, be it politics or whatever, and join hands to fight this pandemic, otherwise we will one day hold our heads in regret.”

Meanwhile, the Coalition of Kano Civil Groups criticised Northern governors for returning the children to their home states amid the pandemic.

The leader of the coalition, Ibrahim Waiya, told The Guardian: “The children have the fundamental human right, as Nigerians, to live in any part of the country they wish. So, deporting or returning them to their states is fundamentally wrong.

“These children are vulnerable already. Instead of the governors to care for them, they turned them to subjects of politics. This is rather unfortunate. The governors had already failed to provide an enabling environment for the children to survive.”

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