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Reps Pass Bill To Establish Almajiri Education Commission

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Barely 24 hours after former President Olusegun Obasanjo raised an alarm that out-of-school children posed a threat to national security, the House of Representatives had passed for second reading a bill seeking to establish National Commission for Almajiri education and out-of-school children.
It will be recalled that the government of former President Goodluck also gave the almajiri a facelift, establishing schools to educate them.
Tilted, “Bill for an Act to Establish National Commission for Almajiri Education and out of School Children to Provide for a Multimodal System of Education to tackle the Menace of Illiteracy, Develop Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Programmes, Prevent Youth Poverty, Delinquency and Destitution in Nigeria; and for Related Matters (HB.2028),” the bill was sponsored by Hon. Shehu Kakale and 18 other lawmakers.
In his lead debate at Wednesday’s plenary, Kakale noted that Nigeria was among the countries with millions of children that were out of school.
He said, “Nigeria is among many other countries that are confronted with the phenomenon of out-of-school children. As you may be aware, millions of children and teenagers across the country are currently out of school, due to one reason or the other.
“Mr Speaker, as of September 2022, out-of-school children in Nigeria were estimated to be 18.5 million by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). However, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) estimated the same to be 13.2 million.”
The lawmaker also gave staggering statistics of the figures in many states of Nigeria, recalling Jonathan’s efforts to build 157 schools for the almajiris.
“The statistics appear even grimmer, judging from the rough estimate of out-of-school children per state in the country.
“Mr. Speaker and my Honourable Colleagues, the digest of basic education statistics by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) revealed that Ten (10) out of Nigeria’s Thirty-Six (36) states were homes to more than half of Nigeria’s out-of-school children, as at 2018. The 10 states at the top of the chart had about 5.2 million of the country’s approximately 10.2 million out-of-school children at that time.
“In no particular order, Kano State had the most with 989,234, while Akwa-Ibom (581,800), Katsina (536,122) and Kaduna (524,670) followed closely. Taraba (499,923), Sokoto (436,570), Yobe (427,230), Zamfara (422,214) and Bauchi (354,373) were other states that ranked high on the list. States with the lowest numbers of out-of-school children were Cross River with 97,919, Abia with 91, 548, Kwara with 84,247, Enugu with 82,051, Bayelsa with 53,079, FCT with 52,972 and Ekiti with 50,945.
“Mr. Speaker, several challenges are associated with the high number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. All out-of-school children in Nigeria are at risk of exploitation, vulnerable to recruitment by insurgents, human traffickers, and by other criminal elements in society.
In fact, in your address to Members of the House of Representatives in this hallowed chamber on 28th January 2020, Mr. Speaker, you were very vivid on the rising number of out-of-school children and the danger it portends for the Nigerian state.
“Mr Speaker and my Honourable colleagues, as I draw this debate to a close, permit me to reiterate the fact that education is pivotal to human development and the growth of a nation. It was in recognition of this that Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had to build 157 Almajiri Model Schools to enable the education of the almajiris in Nigeria.
“There cannot be a functional society without a functional educational system. Accordingly, the establishment of the proposed Commission will ensure that the Almajiris receive sound education that will shield them from exploitation by criminal elements. It is in line with the foregoing, I hereby urge you Mr. Speaker, and my respected colleagues to support that this Bill is read the Second time,” he said.
In his contribution, the Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila said the bill was worthy of passage.
Gbajabiamila said, “The sponsor and I worked very closely last year on the issue of almajiri. I commend him for this proactiveness. For anything that has to do with education in this 9th assembly, we have been very proactive. Education has been a priority in our legislative agenda. We have just concluded a two-day summit on tertiary education. We hope that at the end of the day, we will make recommendations.”
But in his own inputs, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai said that while he was not against the bill, a timeline should be provided in the bill for the termination of the programme.
“You are aware that 12 years ago, the Presidency embarked on making sure that the almajiris are integrated into the educational sector. I agree with this bill but in agreeing with it, they are making an intervention and it should have a gestation period like saying this program will last ten to 15 years or so. If the commission is established to just run like that, it will be discriminatory in nature. Every child is entitled to an education. This particular program is an interventionist to bridge the gap, so if it’s an intervention to bridge the gap, it supposed to have a timeline, the laws are made in that way”, he said.
Also contributing, Hon. Dachung Bagos called for punitive measures against failures on the part of the operators of the commission when established.
“This bill coming from a PDP man, my colleague from Sokoto. This is the heartbeat of the project the PDP administration started during the time of Goodluck Jonathan because of the importance— of seeing that Almajiri and out-of-school children— if someone had done his work all through the years, we could not have been at the point in time. It is a bill we support totally, but ours is that once this is established, the people that are supposed to do their work in the bill should be able to spell out actual punishment for those that are supposed to carry out that duty. At this point, let the penalty be spelled out,” Bagos said.
Responding to Ossai comment, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase who presided over the session said the bill was not discriminatory but for all out-of-school children nationwide.
“I want you (Ossai) to look at the long title of the bill. It says almajiri and out-of-school children, which we have in all parts of Nigeria. It’s not only for the almajiri, it will also take care of our brothers that are always in the street,” he said.
The bill later scaled through second reading when put to a voice vote by the presiding officer.
In a related development, the House also passed for second reading a Bill for an Act to Establish Chartered Institute of Corporate and Business Management Affairs; and for Related Matters sponsored by Hon. Julius Ihonvbere from Edo State.

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Alleged Anti-Party, PDP Reps Demand Damagun’s Resignation

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Ahead of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a coalition of PDP federal lawmakers has demanded the resignation of the party’s acting national chairman, Umar Iliya Damagun, over alleged anti-party activities.
The lawmakers are calling for Damagun’s removal by the NEC, along with further sanctions, should he fail to resign.
Accusing Damagun of working to hand over PDP structures to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the lawmakers are urging his resignation to allow for a North Central person to emerge as acting chairman, pending the party’s convention as stipulated by the party’s constitution.
They threatened to leave the party if the alleged doctored list of Local Government Caretaker Committees in Rivers and 10 other states, which they claim is filled with APC members and loyalists, was not nullified.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, the spokesperson for the group and member representing Ideato Federal Constituency of Imo State, stated that they cannot remain in a party whose activities are determined by another political party.
The lawmakers alleged that the list of Caretaker Committee members in Rivers State was doctored in favour of former Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and APC members who have defected from the PDP. They also accused Damagun of not doing anything to halt the plot to impeach Rivers State governor, Siminalayi Fubara, despite allegedly being fully aware of the details.
According to Ugochinyere, based on the PDP zoning formula, it is the turn of the North Central to produce the party’s chairman, and called on North Central leaders to present a credible replacement for Sen. Iyorchia Ayu.
They called on PDP stalwarts such as former Senate President David Mark, Muazu Babangida Aliyu, Senator Abba Moro, and Bukola Saraki to rescue the party from being sold to the ruling APC.
Additionally, the lawmakers urged the PDP NEC to review the party’s sources of finance, investigate allegations of pro-APC supporters funding the party, and set up a committee to investigate all acts of anti-party activity since 2023, with appropriate sanctions to cleanse the party.
When contacted via phone call, Damagum refused to comment when The Tide source inquired about his reaction to the allegations levelled against him by the lawmakers. He simply hung up his phone after our source introduced himself, told him the reason for the call, and refused to pick up subsequent calls.
On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, promised to get back after going through the allegations but did not as of the time of filing this report. He also did not answer several calls subsequently to his phone line.
Also, efforts to speak with the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Ibrahim Abdullahi, were unsuccessful, as he did not pick up the call.

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LG Polls: PDP Wins All In Bayelsa

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The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State has swept the local government election conducted by the State Independent Electoral Commission last Saturday.
The PDP won the chairmanship position in all eight local government areas and all the councillorship positions in the 105 wards, according to the results announced by the commission in Yenagoa on Sunday.
The major opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), shunned the poll as it did not field candidates.
In Yenagoa LGA, the BYSIEC’s returning officer, Wisdom Soreh, declared Buloudisiye Ndiwari as the winner of the chairmanship election after he polled 56, 103 votes.
The returning officer for Sagbama LGA, Prof Abiodun Adelegan, declared Alice Tangi as the winner.
She polled a total of 51,543 votes.
In Ogbia LGA, the returning officer, Tams Deiduomo, declared Golden Jeremiah, who polled 42,462 votes, as the winner.
The returning officer for Southern Ijaw LGA, Ebi Stanley-Udisi, announced Target Segibo as the winner, garnering 36,326 votes.
In Nembe LGA, the immediate-past Commissioner for Agriculture, David Alagoa, polled 11,829 votes to win the election as declared by the returning officer, Prof Festus Akpotohwo.
In Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA, the returning officer, Prof Apuega Arikawei, declared Lelei Tariye as the winner with 27,823 votes.
Also, the returning officer for Ekeremor LGA, Prof Joseph Omoro, declared Onniye Isaac as the winner with 35,177 votes, while in Brass LGA, Febo Lucky of the PDP was declared the winner by the returning officer, Prof Joseph Omoro.

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Diri Expresses Satisfaction With Conduct Of LG Poll In Bayelsa

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Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has commended the state independent electoral commission(BYSIEC) for the organisation of the state’s Local Government election at the weekend.
He also said reports available to him indicated that the polls were generally peaceful across the state.
The Governor spoke to Journalists shortly after casting his vote at 10.15am alongside his wife, Dr Gloria, at his Kalamaowei wari unit 4 ward 6 in Sampou community, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of the state.
He expressed the optimism that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will emerge victorious in the 105 wards of the eight local government areas as it was the only party with wide acceptance and vigorously campaigned across the state ahead of the election.
“PDP enjoys the support of the people and judging from the outcome of the November 11, 2023 governorship election, our party will still take the upper hand.
“As you have seen, the voting process was peaceful and seamless and l think if this is the way it is in every other unit and ward, then we expect a peaceful and successful Local Government election to usher in a new leadership at the third tier of government.
“So far, we’re very pleased that there is no report of security breach across the state. At the last security council meeting, l charged the security agencies to be part of this electoral process and to ensure that security of the state was not breached.”
Responding to a question on why the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state did not participate in the election, Diri said only the faction led by Dennis Otiotio under the control of Chief Timipre Sylva boycotted the poll and that the party had more than one faction.
He added that the reason for their action was best known to them.

Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa

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