FG: No Immediate Plan to Ban Almajiri

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Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The Presidency last night said it had no immediate plan to proscribe the Almajiri system in the North as reported by a section of the media, explaining that it could only be a long term goal.

This comment was made in reaction to a declaration by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd.), on Thursday, that the federal government would proscribe Almajiri because it had been a breeding ground for insecurity.

The NSA had while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting on Thursday in Abuja, blamed some of the security problems confronting  the country on Almajiri system in Northern Nigeria, saying the federal government would be left with no option than to proscribe it.

“The group I spoke about on illiteracy is the Almajiri. Ultimately, government will have to proscribe this Almajiri phenomena, because we cannot continue to have street urchins, children roaming around, only for them in a couple of years, or decades to become problems to society,” Monguno said.

But reacting to the NSA’s declaration, presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said while the eventual proscription of Almajiri  (Qur’anic learning system associated with begging on economic and religious grounds peculiar to some Northern states) system of education, remained a goal to be pursued, it would not be an immediate decision by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari as widely reported by the media.

The statement also admonished Nigerians to be moderate in their reactions to Buhari’s call for free and compulsory basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age in Nigeria, at the inauguration of NEC in the State House on Thursday.

It said: “The Presidency notes that while the Buhari administration is committed to free and compulsory education as a long-term objective of bringing to an end, the phenomenon of out-of-school children, any necessary ban on Almajiri would follow due process and consultation with relevant authorities.

“Indeed, the federal government wants a situation where every child of primary school age is in school rather than begging on the streets during school hours. At the same time, we don’t want to create panic or a backlash.”

The statement described as absurd some media reports that there were plans by the government to carry out massive arrests of parents who deprive their children of the opportunity to obtain free and compulsory primary school education as stipulated in the Nigerian constitution.

While denying such reports, Shehu said at no time did the president state that any individual or group which fails to comply with the provision is violating the law of the land and liable to some punishment.

Buttressing his position, Shehu opted to reproduce the president’s speech at the inauguration of NEC on Thursday, noting that the president only stated without any fear of equivocation, that Nigerian children had the right to free education and must be accorded such rights and protection under the law.

The president’s comments as reproduced by Shehu, said: “On education, I want to stress in particular the need to take very seriously and enforce very rigorously the statutory provisions on free and compulsory basic education. Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended places on all of us here an obligation to eradicate illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education.

“Section 2 of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.

‘‘It is indeed a crime for any parent to keep his child out of school for this period. In my view, when a government fails to provide the schools, teachers and teaching materials necessary for basic education, it is actually aiding and abetting that crime.

“This is, therefore, a call to action. I would like to see every governor rise from this meeting and rally his local government chairmen towards ensuring that our schools offer the right opportunities and provide the needed materials and teachers for basic education, at the minimum. If we are able to do this, the benefits will surely manifest themselves.”

The statement insisted that Buhari’s remark was made within the law of Nigeria.