In recent weeks, Nigerians have been flooded with disturbing images of human cargoes packed like sardines in heavy duty trucks from the Northern region headed for the Southern parts of the country; most especially the south east region.
Several interceptions of trucks laden with almajiris (a set of people, renowned for constant begging for alms and in recent times for clandestine and jihadist activities) have been made across Abia, Enugu, Rivers, Cross River, Ogun, Ondo states to mention just a few.
Quite surprisingly, the leadership in Nigeria’s south, the traditional rulers including the much outspoken South East leader, John Nnia Nwodo, and the Governors (Hope Uzodinma, Okezie Ikpeazu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to mention a few) seem unperturbed by this sudden influx of almajiris into their region even while ban on inter-state travel is supposedly rigorously enforced in Nigeria to check the spread of coronavirus. Well, shouldn’t they be worried?
Records show that the number of COVID-19 cases recorded in Nigeria is on an astronomical increase and currently stands at 7,839 cases as at Monday 25th May, 2020. A large number of these reported cases are known to be almajiris which makes it ignorant for anyone to assume that these almajiris transported to the southern parts of Nigeria amidst this scourge are a set of well-trained health practitioners combating the spread of this disease across the nation. This is not the case as the Almajiris are reputed for constituting nuisance through their constant begging for alms on the streets of northern Nigeria. This pathetic situation in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north has created a window for Boko Haram terrorists to also loiter the streets in similar manner, pretending to be destitute.
So many terrorist activities in Nigeria are known to have been carried out by persons who roam the streets in the guise of almajiris.
Therefore, it amounts to huge shock why the leaders in Nigeria’s predominately Christian southern region will sit idle while these notorious individuals takeover their region.
Also disturbing is the ignorance, lackadaisical attitude and blatant refusal of authorities in Nigeria’s north to address and proffer a lasting solution to the almajiri menace which further compounds the already dire situation.
There is also the risk of rapid spread of the coronavirus in northern Nigeria owing to the region’s low level of education, extreme beliefs and ignorance culminating to a carefree lifestyle, with multiple deaths recorded in Kano, Katsina, Zamfara etc., which is not totally unconnected to the COVID-19 scourge.
This is reminiscent of polio meningitis which ravaged the North when they blatantly refused immunization.
More worrisome is the fact that many of these almajiris have tested positive to coronavirus, sabotaging the efforts of frontline health workers to curtail this spread.
In a recently conducted poll by Evon Media (a renowned media outfit based in Europe) on Facebook which sampled opinion of the public on movement of Almajiris from Nigeria’s north to the south, 93% voted that the movement of Almajiris to the Southern part of Nigeria is not a step in the right direction as against 7% that voted otherwise (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1918449661620153&id=440791022719365).
This clearly expresses the disapproval of majority over this strange redistribution in the Sub-Saharan country; thereby raising pertinent questions like: What is the mission of Almajiris in southern Nigeria? Is there a deliberate attempt to spread Coronavirus in Nigeria’s south? Where will the almajiris be lodged? What plans does the Nigerian government have for them?
It is against this backdrop that socio-cultural organizations in Nigeria’s southern region such as the Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta forum and Governors in the region are called upon and urged to resist this invasion and sinister moves to forestall impending breach in security and threat to peaceful existence the South has long enjoyed. A stitch in time saves nine they say.