For two weeks now, videos and photos of trucks, containers and luxurious buses packed with almajiris were sighted and turned back by some states in the South-Eastern and South-Southern Nigeria. The Guardian of May 8, 2020 reported that 9 busloads of almajiris were intercepted and turned back by the Enugu State government on May 7 alone. In Abia State, buses conveying more than a hundred almajiris were caught as they tried to sneak into the state on Tuesday, 5 May, 2020. Cross River State intercepted 5 truckloads of these same people on Thursday, 7 May, 2020. This is just to mention a few of the reported cases.
The inception of these travellers was made possible because of the ban on interstate travels. As of today, interstate borders are still closed following the lockdown order that came into effect on 31 March, 2020. If there was no lockdown, or border closure, these people would have freely moved into the states and constituted more problems for themselves, the natives and the respective state governments.
Recently, the Northern Governors Forum banned the Almajiri system and started repatriating them back to their countries, states and local governments of origin. But it is obvious that they only dislodged them and gave them room to flee from the north and seek new homes in the South-East and South-South. But these boys failed to realise that these places they’re running to have cultures that are different from theirs and will, therefore, not be fertile grounds for them.
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However, a lot of questions have been raised by concerned Nigerians regarding this massive migration.
- How did these buses and vehicles pass through the security checks?
Market women lament about security officers at state borders and along the roads that frustrate their efforts of getting to other states for agricultural produce. They said these security men, mostly the police, either turn them back or collect heavy bribes from them. These attitudes stop these traders and farmers from transacting their businesses freely. But here we have trucks of humans, who are definitely not essential commodities, passing through tight security checkpoints, crossing through different state borders, and then reaching another region that is far from theirs. This speaks loudly against these security men and makes mockery of them and the so-called border closures.
- Who sponsored the migration?
We know that these boys don’t have any sources of income; they depend on charity to survive. But here we see them paying for transportation that would have cost them nothing less than 10k. So the big question remains, how did these boys manage to raise funds to sponsor their transportation all the way from the far North to the South-East and South-South (one luxurious bus that was intercepted in Enugu came from Kano)? I don’t believe the bus and truck drivers are being charitable by moving these boys free-of-charge. Or are they?
- Why are they migrating down East and South?
Of course, as stated above, the logical answer is that they were banned from the North and so seek for greener pastures in the East. But is that really their reason for going there in large numbers and within a short notice? If they were banned from the North, did the East and South legalise them? It is even a common knowledge that Easterners do not condone vagrancy and pilfering, so how will these boys survive there? Or is someone moving them to use them for cheap labour? Some people, on Twitter, insinuated that the Northern state governments are deliberately sharing their problems to the other parts of Nigeria because they couldn’t contain the almajiris. This assertion may sound logical but we know it is out of place. There’s no way a state government can just deliberately ship its problem to another state knowing it will create a chain reaction that will consume it too. Or are these governments moving these boys? Questions that are craving for answers keep arising from this situation. It is more confusing especially when you consider that these movements seemed well planned and organised.
- Who are the Almajiris’ parents?
It is beginning to become obvious that some of the Almajiris do not have parents. It is possible that the majority of them were abandoned by their parents. Or that they are products of unplanned teenage pregnancy. No one can tell, because their state governments failed them. If these boys do not know who they are, shouldn’t their state governments provide them with identities and keep them in homes? Now that they have nowhere to go to, they are being forced to go to places that will not welcome them.
Of course no one is denying any Nigerian from moving freely and settling down in any part of the country. But the cases of almajiris are different. They are not adults, who could manage their affairs and fend for themselves. These almajiris are children, who have no skills but depend only on charity, pilfering and violence to feed. Such attitudes are condemnable among the Igbos. It needs to be understood that the way of life of the Easterners and Southerners are quite different from that of the Northerners; there is no way Almajiri will be accepted in these places. Whoever or whatever that is drawing these children to any other geopolitical region in Nigeria other than their original homes should understand that these children belong to their parents’ homes, and not on the streets.