Kano: Poverty, parental neglect responsible for drug crime among Almajiris
Before the demise of his father eight years ago, Ibrahim Ali enjoyed all the basic parental care. As a teenager, Ibrahim attended a private primary school, sheltered within the means of his father, but little did he know that these basic necessities wouldn’t last for long.The 12-year-old Ibrahim lost his father three years ago, leaving him in the care of his stepmother Hajia Balarabe Ali (not real names).
Ibrahim was not lucky enough in the hands of his stepmother who subtly declined to take responsibility of bringing up as her stepson. This was what led Ibrahim into the hands of notorious drug pushers in Sabon Gari.
The story of Yakubu Musa, another victim of drug abuse, was different. He was less than 10 years old when he was found alongside other almajiris at the popular Church Road in Sabon Gari area of the state.Unlike Ibrahim, Yakubu’s parents are alive, but incapable of sponsoring him to school. He was forced to stay out of school when his father could hardly afford to replace his old uniform and meet some basic needs in school.
Incidentally, he ran into the wrong hands of friends who told him to look for better means of getting money in Sabo Gari only to find himself in the midst of young drug addicts who also doubled as traffickers.Inusa Abdullah is an almajiri undergoing Islamic education under an Islamic teacher in the city centre.
Disgusted by the routine street roaming to beg for what to eat, he decided to look for alternative means of survival. He, too, met with couple of friends who introduced him to trafficking in illicit drug substance.
Apart from trafficking the illicit substance, the three teenagers also derive pleasure in consuming the substance at will. Confessing how they got involved in the drug business at NDLEA custody after their arrest, they could not deny being engaged by various paymasters whom they hardly know but render services to for just N300 daily.
A visit to a popular spot at Church Road in Sabon Gari where the little children converge with their trade masters was a glaring reflection of moral decadence imbedded in teenagers who have lost all sense of parental care.One of the almajiris, Aminu Ali, who abandoned Islamic School in search of food, revealed that he got involved in drug trafficking after a friend introduced him to one of the dealers who promised to take care of him.
According to Aminu: “ I was brought to Kano by my parent from Bauchi to learn Islamic studies, but many a times we had nothing to eat. We do beg from people after morning studies and we return to school. We would do the same thing in the afternoon and evening. One day, my friend just asked me to go and look for money instead of begging every time. That was how I started.”
Another teenager Audu Cheribi, told The Guardian that he was brought to Kano from the IDPs camp in Maiduguri two years ago after Boko Haram attacked his village, Goza.Audu, who hinted that he hardly knew whether his parents are still alive or not, lamented that he has lived almost three years selling hard drugs in Sabon Gari.“As you can see me here I have nobody to take care of me, even my parents I don’t know where they are. I joined some people in a lorry coming to Kano from our IDPs camp in Maduguri to see how life looks like here.
“But when I reached Kano there was nobody to even give me what to eat. Life is so difficult. I came across some young boys like me here and they were the ones that introduced me to our Oga. The man gives us money and we sell the drug for him. We also take out of it to feel very good”.
Habibu Daura, another almajiri who sells local substance like suck-and-die, gum and solution at the popular Church road disclosed that he mostly shuttles between his Islamic school and drug business spot. He reveals that he makes no less than N400 per day.“This is where we live and suffer. We take drugs and we help our Oga to sell. I have been arrested many times, but I don’t have anything doing again than to take drugs because if I don’t take it I may die.”
Mr. John Johnson a resident of Church Road told The Guardian that residents of the community have been coping with the menace of the drug abusers for several years without solution. He lamented that government’s continued failure to swing into action against the almajiri drug addicts portend major security threat in the future.
Look, I have been living on this street for more than a decade. This area is very peaceful, but these almajiris have turned it to a crime-prone area with their illicit drug activities.“We don’t know why government has refused to do something serious about it. Sometimes they would be arrested, but I won’t take long, they would be freed.”
State Commander, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Alhaji Hamza Umar, recently alerted the public on the rampant cases of almajiris in drug abuse, lamenting that investigation reveals that children often run away from their Islamic schools in the city to fend for themselves without permission from their teachers.
According to the NDLEA helmsman: “We have seen several cases of these boys who were brought to Kano and we have also seen some many cases who are from Kano. Why would parents expect them to fend for themselves as teenagers? This is the reason many of them who resorted to begging, eventually end up in the hands of those that will destroy their lives and future.Besides, Hamza disclosed that the Command has arrested about 40 children who escaped from various IDP’s in the Northeast for drug related offences.
The NDLEA boss, while blaming parents for neglecting their responsibility, said he has personally adopted one of the almajiris who could not locate his parents.Although the statutory laws of NDLEA does not empower the agency to prosecute users of psychotropic and local illicit substance, the Commander said that all the almajiris have been transferred to Kano State Hisbah Board after counseling. He, however, expressed dismay that despite series of arrests and transfer to Hisbah Board, the children still find their way back to the business.
He maintained that three drug dealers allegedly responsible for engaging the almajiris in drug trafficking in Kano have been nabbed.
“Again we as an agency are constrained under the law to prosecute users of the drugs especially the almajiris. We arrested and counsel them for few days before we transferred them to Hisbah Board for necessary action.
“At the same time our men had arrested some people accused of using them. One of the almajiris that we arrested was able to give vital information leading to arrest of some of the people giving them the substance.”Deputy Superintendent in charge of drug abuse at Kano Hisbah Board, Adam Haruna Bayero, confirmed to The Guardian the arrest of the almajiris and subsequent transfer to the board from the NDLEA. He, however, hinted that most of them have been released to their parents and some returned to their villages.
Adamu who explained that the laws guiding the board enabled it to arrest and prosecute through Sharia law, said the almajiris were released on various considerations.He maintained that although the board is empowered under street begging law to arrest people constituting nuisance on the streets, drug traffickers did not fall into the category.
“Hisbah has the responsibility to counsel and prosecute any offender as the case may be. And as you rightly said we received some almajiris drug offenders who were arrested and brought to us by NDLEA, but unfortunately none of them is currently in our custody as I speak now.“The reason is first, they are still juvenile, so it could be difficult to prosecute them. But our intervention was in categories. First we invite parents of some of them who are from Kano to come and pick them. That was after we have advised them on the danger of what they are doing and why they should stop it.
“Secondly, those that are not from Kano were repatriated back to their villages and finally some that have gone far in the abuse were sent to Kiru Rehabilitation Centre for thorough detoxification and rehabilitation.” But a source who craved anonymity told The Guardian that the almajiris are often discharged by the Hisbah Board few days after they were arrested.
It was also gathered that some of the almajiris have returned to their normal business in Sabon Gari.Kiru Reformatory Centre’ built with modern facilities for detoxification and rehabilitation of drug addicts, has been closed down in the last one year.The centre was refurbished by the immediate past government in the state years after it was abandoned. Private consultants engaged by the government have since trained about 500 repentant drug addicts.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development in the state, Barrister Zubaida Damakka, said that the centre was temporarily closed to enable renovation, stressing that government has already commenced the enrolment of female drug addicts.
A Kano-based civil rights activist Barrister Audu Bulama Bukarti, who frowned at the alleged discharge of the drug addicts, wondered why government could not hold parents of these children responsible.
He expressed concern over possible social risk associated with allowing the menace to thrive in the near future.With an estimate of about 15 million people, Kano, the largest state in the country according to available records, shows that 37 per cent teenagers in the state are involved in drug addiction.
Source:The Guardian Newspaper