“Expectedly, the Northern states are beginning to take responsibility and there is every reason to believe that plans are already on ground to take good care of those almajiris on arrival in their home states. The motive behind it is commendable. However, the expulsions have coincided with the COVID-19 outbreak and this is our first concern. The children are being exposed to great danger. To make matters worse, significant numbers of these almajiris are testing positive to Coronavirus thereby swelling the COVID-19 caseloads of their receiving states and making the management of this global pandemic more difficult for Nigerian authorities. Unfortunately, some of these almajiris are also escaping to southern states, potentially spreading COVID-19 to every nook and cranny of Nigeria,” lamented Akintola.
“It is clear that the concerned Northern states appeared to have acted without consulting Islamic scholars who are at their beck and call. Islam opposes the idea of leaving a city under plague attack. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) warned that ‘If a plague breaks out in a city and you are living there, do not leave it. And if you are about to enter a city and there is a plague there, do not enter there. The reported expulsions and arrangement of caravan-like trips for the expulsion of almajiris from some Northern states is therefore ill-advised and badly timed. The exercise is already being abused as some of the almajiris are allegedly escaping southwards. Worse still is the fact that some of them have already tested positive for COVID-19”.
Akintola believed “Nigeria would have fared better if we had strictly followed the Islamic teaching on remaining in one place during a plague” stressing that “Even the world would have been safer today but the phobia for anything Islamic did not allow world powers to take advantage of the wisdom in Islamdom for managing pandemics”. MURIC appealed to the security agencies to strictly enforce the ban on interstate travels, including stemming the tide of interstate almajiri ‘exports’ noting that many of the index cases in some states had been traced to people who came in from outside such states. “The police have a case to answer, particularly concerning trailers caught with human and animal cargoes in the south during the week. How did they ply the roads that lead to the south with several roadblocks along the line?” he queried.
The group called on northern governors to postpone the expulsion of almajiris until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. “Instead, the Federal Government, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, and the NCDC should collaborate with the concerned Northern states to gather all those almajiris in a few central locations, test them for the Corona virus, isolate the infected, and treat them promptly. That way, this scourge will be nipped in the bud among them and we would have prevented the spread of COVID-19 via infected almajiris to the whole of the country”, MURIC suggested.
According to Akintola, “Those in charge of the repatriation of almajiris must also ensure that the latter do not successfully escape down south where nobody understands their culture. We charge Nigerians to exercise patience by refraining from travels around this period and, better still, by staying at home, maintaining social distancing, using facemasks, and washing their hands regularly or using sanitizers.”