Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), has appealed to Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in states and local governments to rescue street and out of school children.
Mr Ibrahim Zikirullahi, the Executive Director of the group, made the appeal on Thursday in Abuja at a news conference on its ongoing initiative for Combating Forced Child Begging in Northern Nigeria.
He said that there was need to rescue out of school children across the country from their current state of misery and unending abuses.
“Beyond the speeches and the ceremony, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari must connect the ideals of June 12 to the plight of marginalised and vulnerable Nigerians, whose lives have not been positively impacted by two decades
of the democratic process.
“In other words, the new Democracy Day is worth celebrating, but its commemoration should not just be about the political elites making speeches.
“There should be urgent Action Plans on the part of the Nigerian state to address the plight of ordinary citizens like the millions of children on the streets of our country, the unemployed, and women, who groan daily as a result of the absence of quality governance,” he said.
Zikirullahi however called on the wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, who had become a vocal advocate of the poor and vulnerable to consider taking up the issue as part of her long list of advocacies for the marginalised people of this country.
He said that evidence abound about how the rights of children were flagrantly trampled upon, adding that situations such as mothers using their new born babies to elicit pity from passersby and thereafter beg for alms.
He said that children who were supposed to be in the care of their parents or in schools were forced into the streets to beg, and were even given targets, if not met, could result in further abuses.
“There can be no mincing words about the fact that the reality of almajiri children in Northern Nigeria represents the worst and most cruel violation of the rights of children, which calls to question the humanity of the perpetrators of these abuses.
“For those of us who have seen on display this painful plight of these innocent children in the cities and towns across the North, we cannot have sound sleep until concerted efforts to end these cruelties perpetrated against innocent children taken.
“Every day, we see hordes of hungry, unsheltered and barely clad children approaching us to beg for the next meal or for money,” he said.
Zikirullahi said that hundreds of children were on the street exposed to the elements with no access to education, food, clothing and parental love.
He said that the children and citizens should be guaranteed their fundamental human rights supposedly to protect, recognise and guaranteed by the constitution of the country.
“The prevalence of the social problem of street children will be gleaned from the latest data from the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) which puts the number of out of school children in Nigeria at 13.2million.
“Of course, there exist no reliable national figures relating to the number of Almajiri street children in Nigeria. There is little doubt, however, that they are very numerous and are daily increasing in population,’’ he said.
Zikirullahi said the conditions of existence and general attitude of neglect toward the ‘Almajiris’ by the public and government represent a serious problem of human rights, human development, and social security.
He said that group had gone a step further to strategically engage with the goal of finding and implementing sustainable solutions capable of addressing the problems.
Zikirullahi said that it was against the background that CHRICED and Anti-Slavery International UK, with the support from the Bureau of Human Rights and Labour (DRL) of the U. S. Department of State, decided to design and implement an innovative research-based knowledge on the nature of past and ongoing State and non-State interventions on the Almajiri issue.
Zikirullahi said that the research component of the project would help to generate data such that advocacy on the issue would be based on evidence and not on mere sentiments.
“Nonetheless, one major talking point in the course of this project will focus on how best to reform the Almajiri system, such that it is no longer an alibi for some of the cruelties against children, which we see in the North on a daily basis.
“For avoidance of doubt, the Almajiri which is currently the subject of abuse and misuse, used to be a functional one in the pre-colonial times, which provided the platform for young people to acquire knowledge of Islam.
“It was a system, which at that time helped to ensure the spread and diffusion of Islamic knowledge as students traveled some distance away from the comfort of their homes to learn at the feet of great Islamic scholars,” he said.
Zikirullahi however called stakeholders to network and share ideas on how best to push for the reforms with the goal of eradicating the drivers of forced child begging to find sustainable and lasting solutions to human right and human security challenge.
Edited by Grace Yussuf