Mr Mustapha, while speaking at the daily Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19, on Monday, said the country must provide for their welfare and turn them into productive citizens.
”There is nothing wrong about them learning the dictates of their faith. But we must prepare them equally for the future.
”Equip them, skill them so that they can become educated in their state and also productive citizens in the future.
”If we do not deal with the issues relating to the almajiris, we are building an army that would overwhelm us as a people and as a nation in the future,” he said.
Mr Mustapha’s statement was in reaction to the decision of some northern governors to ban the almajiri system as part of measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Almajiri is ideally a system of Islamic education practised in northern Nigeria, where young children leave their homes to live with Islamic scholars and learn about religion. Almajiri derives from an Arabic word, “al-Muhajirun” meaning a person who leaves his home in search of Islamic knowledge.
However, the system has over the years been bastardised with thousands of such children roaming the streets of Northern Nigeria as beggars and without any form of education.
The system has been blamed for significantly contributing to the over 10 million out of school children in Nigeria.
Kano State Government and many other northern states earlier decided to transfer ‘almajiri’ to their respective states so they can reunite with their families.
As of Sunday, the Kano commissioner for local government, Murtala Garo, said 419 almajiris have been transported to Katsina, 524 to Jigawa and 155 to Kaduna, totalling 1,098.
On Monday, the Kaduna State government said some almajiris transferred from Kano are part of the five new COVID-19 cases recorded in the state.
As of 11:20 on April 27, Nigeria has recorded 1337 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of these, 255 patients have been treated and discharged and 40 deaths recorded.
Mr Mustapha said most of the almajiris are minors who need people to be responsible for them.
”Most of them are minors. As a matter of fact, by the time they get to their teens they mature and become the Mallams.
”And I think every government has a responsibility given to it by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to provide for the welfare and the security of its citizens,” he said.
He added that ”I also believe that the governors taking this option have that at the back of their minds. The states in which these almajiris are operating, can we say that their welfare is being taken care of?
“Is adequate security being provided for them? And being minors, somebody has to take that responsibility. And I said we should look at it within the context.
“So, I want to believe that the actions that have been taken by these governors are in context to provide for the security and the welfare, realising that virtually all of them are minors,” he said.