Early 2020, begging bans were announced in two of Nigeria’s states – Kano and Nasawara. There are some differences as well as similarities between both bans and to a previous one found in Kaduna state.
I have been corrected several times that the bans are targeted at street bans rather than banning ‘Almajiranci’ which is a practice of Qur’anic studies seen predominantly in Northern Nigeria where young boys are made to live with a ‘Malam’ (Teacher) to enable them study the Qur’an. These boys most often end up begging on the streets.
Nonetheless, based on insights into the practice of Almajiranci, it would appear the bans are targeted at the practice and its practitioners. Concerning Kano’s case, the government was explicitly clear that this practice was a part of the bans.
This issue has reared its head in Nigerian politics recently after the Northern Nigeria’s Governor’s Forum uniting to insist on a ban due to the spread of the COVID19. States have started the process of sending the ‘Almajirai’ back home.
Almajiranci- related begging hurts the pride of Nigerians. This is not without a tangible reason. Coming across young boys on the streets, sleeping out on the open and shivering under cold temperatures is very hard to stomach.
In a research conducted, the mainstream discourses around Almajiranci were examined. Populist polices like the recent bans fit well into mainstream narratives that seek to show the Almajiranci in a negative way. What was discovered was that sensationalist narratives which portray the Almajirai as violent misfits and beggars can lead to the young men and the education system around Almajiranci to be viewed in a negative light. The advent and spread of the Coronavirus and the headlines reporting that some of the Almajirai have been infected with the virus also fits perfectly well in this scenario. Almajirai as ‘carriers of the disease’.
The catch here is: if Almajirai are only seen as beggars and a nuisance then a ban too many individuals should probably take care of that.
A look at the ban.
There are a lot of semblances to the structure of the bans announced by the three different governments, with the main focus seemingly on all the beggars on the streets rather than the Almajirai per se.
But in the case of the ban in Kano state. It specifically wants to penalize Almajiranci. According to the government in Kano state,
When Almajirai are seen and caught in the act of begging, not only the Almajirai caught, but also his parents and guardians will also be included to face the full rigors of the law in court.
In the course of my research, I realized that the young Almajirai often beg to take care of their stomach needs and as soon as they grow into full adults, they would rather work than beg on the streets. This is therefore a temporal begging and not permanent and stopping it is quite impossible due to the absence of alternatives.