Northern governors begin expulsion of Almajiris over coronavirus

• States close Quranic schools
• Katsina receives 435 Almajiris from Kano
• Kaduna returns 40 to Kebbi
• Senator seeks FG’s help for Kano on COVID-19

State governors in the North have begun deporting students of the Almajiri educational system as the region battles growing cases of COVID-19.

Derived from the Arabic ‘al-Muhajirun’, an Almajiri is a person who leaves his home in search of Islamic knowledge.

Although the controversial system has enjoyed a popularity spanning centuries, the pandemic is causing a major interruption in its operations.

The Katsina State government yesterday received 435 students expelled from Kano State. The Secretary to the Government of Katsina State, Mustapha Inuwa, took custody of the indigenous students at the Katsina-Kano border at the early hours of the day.

Kano State Commissioner of Education Muhammad Kiru led his state’s team at the handover. Inuwa said Katsina had also taken similar measures by closing down Islamic and Quranic schools and returning all Almajiri to their parents including those from the Niger Republic.

He added that the children would undergo another round of health examination at the NYSC Camp in Katsina before being transported to their various communities across the state.

Similarly, Kebbi State received 40 Almajiri students deported by the Kaduna State government.

On Tuesday, Kano State Commissioner of Education Muhammad Sanusi-Kiru had explained that the deportation was to safeguard public health and stem the spread of the pandemic.

Stressing that the exercise would be continuous, he said in a statement: “The Almajiri students will be evacuated to Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Zamfara, Gombe, Nasarawa States and the Niger Republic.”

He noted: “Against the misconception of some people in the society that the government is planning to stop Qur’anic schools in the state, it was an effort to bring sanity to the system. It is also part of a comprehensive effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

In an interview yesterday with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Sanusi-Kiru said: “As I am talking to you now, we are heading to Jigawa in a convoy with adequate security, together with 524 children, to hand them over to the state government.

“Before the evacuation, we provided personnel that checked the health of the children, to ensure that they are all in healthy condition before we hand them over to their respective states of origin.

“Where these children were living before the evacuation was worrisome, because there were no adequate conveniences, shelter and other hygienic facilities.

“At some of the Tsangaya schools, you will find that over 3,000 Almajiri children live in a small apartment without proper care, hygiene and other necessary needs.”

No serious government can tolerate such an arrangement, Sanusi-Kiru added.

Governors under the aegis of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) had on Tuesday issued a statement where they “discussed the risk that Almajiri children are exposed to due to the virus. They unanimously decided to ban the Almajiri system and evacuate the children to their parents or states of origin.

“They vowed never to allow the system to persist any longer because of the social challenges associated with it including the perpetuation of poverty, illiteracy, insecurity and social disorder.”

Recalling that meeting, Kebbi State Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu yesterday confirmed: “Some states have already started implementing this decision by taking back such Almajiri children to their own states of origin.

Speaking during an interaction with the State Task Force on COVID-19 at the Kebbi Medical Centre, Kalgo, Bagudu said: “I do believe that all the states in the region will soon commence the repatriation and this is for the common good of the states and Nigeria in general.”

This happened as the Kaduna State Government yesterday confirmed three new positive cases of COVID-19 and the discharge of one patient from the state’s isolation centre.

Commissioner for Health Dr. Amina Mohammed-Baloni said one of the cases is a 23-year-old male who came into the state from Istanbul via Dubai in March. The second patient is a 51-year-old male who was tested in Samaru, Sabon-GariLocal Government Area, after coming in from Kano. The third patient, a 42-year-old male from Unguwan Geza in Kaduna, had earlier travelled to Kano.

Katsina State also recorded four new cases, bringing the total to 16. It is, however, unclear which local government area the new cases emanated from.

As at the last count, Daura Local Government Area (LGA) had eight positive cases including that of the index who died over two weeks ago.

All the positive cases in Daura were reported to have contracted the disease from the index. These include the wife and two children of the deceased.
Dutsinma and Katsina LGAs have two cases each.

Governor Aminu Masari consequently ordered the lockdown of Daura, Dutsinma,Mani, Jibia, Katsina and Batagarawa.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), meanwhile, has suspended laboratory tests for COVID-19 in Kano.

An impeccable source who opted to remain anonymous since he is not authorised to speakto the media told The Guardian that the development was due to a shortage of testing kits.

The source said samples from Kano and other neighbouring states would henceforth be referred to Abuja.

The laboratory, which was activated at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, barely a week ago, has so far examined 386 samples and found 73 positive, The Guardian learnt.

“Yes, the kits are temporarily out of stock and as soon as we receive more kits from Abuja, tests will continue. In the main time, samples will be taken to Abuja,” the source said.

But Prof. Isa Abubakar Sadiq, the director of Centre for Diseases Research, Bayero University, Kano, said the temporary suspension was not due to lack of test kits.

Sadiq, who is also a senior member of the Kano State Task Force on COVID-19, said the centre was closed to enable routine fumigation, to make the facility safe for health workers on core duty.

“It is true that active at the centre is presently suspended but not because of lack of testing kits. I have just confirmed that new test kits have just arrived from Abuja and so we have the materials needed for tests.

“But to set the record straight, the centre is being shut down to enable disinfection activities. We are presently fumigating the lab to keep it safe for the health workers working here. So, it is not strange.It is just a routine practice to sanitise the lab especially places like this with volumes of highly contagious samples.”

A deputy director at the NCDC, Nasiru Magaji Sadik, told journalists in Kano that fumigation takes a minimum of 48 hours. He said the Kano test centre could reopen tomorrow.

Besides, the senator representing Kano North, Barau Jibrin has urged the Federal Government to assist Kano State in the fight to curb COVID19 sweeping through the metropolis. In a statement in Abuja yesterday, Sen Barau said with the noticeable spike of the virus in the Kano metropolis, there was the need for the Federal Government to assist the state government with funds, equipment and additional testing facilities to meet the challenges of the most populous state in the country in combating the menace. He said that the Federal Government’s assistance would not only be useful to Kano but also to the surrounding states and invariably the country because of the strategic role Kano plays in the life of the nation.

The senator who is the Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriations cited the Federal Government’s assistance to Lagos State because of its strategic location and importance to the country. He said with the alarming rate of the spread of COVID-19, there was the need to help Kano State especially the rural communities of the state. Sen. Barau pleaded with the Federal Government not to wait until the virus spreads beyond the capability of the state before coming in.

While commending Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje for his administration’s proactive steps taken to combat the pandemic as attested to by the Director-General of the Centre for Disease Control [NCDC], Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the senator called for the federal interventions through the provision of financial support, testing kits and vehicles.“Even in the U.S.A., the administration of President Donald Trump is providing financial and material supports to states experiencing spikes in community transmission of the pandemic”, he said, adding that “President Muhammadu Buhari should please assist Kano State at this point in time.” He lamented that if not because of the lockdown, he would have raised a motion to the effect on the floor of the upper chamber of the National Assembly.

According to statistics available, Kano is currently the third highest state with COVID-19 cases in the country after Lagos and Abuja. While commending Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje for his administration’s proactive steps taken to combat the pandemic as attested to by the Director-General of the Centre for Disease Control [NCDC], Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the senator called for federal interventions through provision of financial support, equipments and testing kits. On Tuesday, Governor Ganduje while playing host to the Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, in Government House Kano, pleaded for support as the state government would not be able to manage the pandemic alone from its lean finances.

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