I did not intend addressing the Child Destitution Bill in my 500-worder in this Issue. I intended writing on two statements credited to Mr. President on two different occasions. On the first, the president was reported to have told his audience that he didn’t mind any party replacing him except the People’s Democratic Party(PDP), while on the second occasion where he was represented by the Vice President, Prof. Yomi Osinbajo, he was reported to have said that his return as president in 2019 is non-negotiable! I thought the statements were improper, particularly when the opposition had expressed doubts about the expected fairness of the 2019 presidential election and had called for the resignations of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmud Yakubu and the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
I decided to suspend writing on the president’sunfortunate statements, however, when the president declined assent to the amendments of the electoral act that have seen to the introduction and justiciabilty ofthe card reader and the electronic transmission of election results from the polling ward to the final collation center. The president’s cold shoulder to important bills has become so common that I feared for the yet-to–be-passed Child Destitution Bill that awaits third reading in the senate.
My fears stem from the exposé by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), a day before the president declinedassent to the bill, that “hawks”within the Buhari presidency have prevailed on him not to sign the bill. The president’s action proved CUPP right, and I recalled that the current minister of education was a staunch critic of the Child Destitution Bill, which, when passed, will cater for about 15 million out–of–school children – the highest in the world proportionate to population – out of which over 12 million are Almajiri from the North.
In 2008 when I and over 3000 concerned Nigerians came together to advocate for passage of the first version of the bill, we translated the bill and the leaddebate by Senator Umar Tafidan Argungu (PDP – KB) into vernacular and sought the support of political, traditional, religion and opinion leaders on the bill. The current minister of education, then an influential columnist with Daily Trust, was one of the opinion leaders we approached. As important as the bill was, he opposed it in a three-part article titled“That Almajirci Bill” published in Daily Trust from September 18, 2008.
In his campaign against the bill, the now minister of education wrote that some of the ills pointed out in the bill are just a way of “giving a dog a bad name” and that Almajircicould best be addressed through Zakkatand taxing wealthy Muslims. He feared that passage of the bill would endanger the Ulama (Mallams) who, he feared, would be extinct in 30 years.
I have confirmed, through the Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed that the Child Destitution Bill is one of the priority bills the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has billed for passage by the 8thSenate before its demise. With shortness of time and with an education minister who is a member of the president’s inner kitchen cabinet opposed to the bill, I guess you can understand my fear.
Credits |The Politico