The season of Ramadan is one in which many Nigerians hold on to their faith and believe in the abundance of blessings to come after. However, some Nigerians are faced with challenges which do not allow them a peaceful Ramadan fasting. Daily Trust on Sunday sought to explore some of these challenges faced by many in different communities.
The Ramadan season has proved to be difficult for many living within Niger, Kano and Maiduguri as they are faced with natural and man-made challenges which they have no control over.
Niger residents pushing through amidst water scarcity
One thing that residents of Minna said they have struggled to survive with since the dry season set in late last year is water scarcity.
With their situation worsened by the early drying up of wells which many houses use as source of water, residents said the Niger State Water and Sewage Corporation does not meet the water supply demands in Minna and environs, leaving them to trek long distances in search of water for domestic use or pay exorbitant charges by water vendors.
As Ramadan commenced, residents of Bosso, Tudun-Fulani, Ungwar-Biri, Fadikpe, Tunga, Medium Prison Quarters, Dusten-Kura Gwari, Dutsen-Kura Hausa, London Streets, Brighter, Maitumbi, Chanchaga among others area, said they wake as early as 5am in search of water, as vendors are sometimes hard to find despite the high cost of water.
Efforts to get officials of the Niger State Water and Sewage Corporation to comment did not yield results. When our correspondent visited the Water Board, the General Manager was not on seat while the Public Relations Officer was said to be out on official engagement. She did not, however, respond to calls put across for the first time and when she later responded, she requested for appointment to speak.
Aliyu Usman said residents of his area, Tudun-Fulani Gabas and Bosso drink from a pond which animals equally drink from because it is the only source of water in the area.
“The pond is the only promising source of water that we have because the pipe borne water did not get to our area. Some well-to-do individuals who dug boreholes sell the water. And even if you want to buy, you’d have to be on the queue for an hour or two. Many residents drink from this pond. Majority of us use this water for domestic purposes including cooking and drinking.”
Aliyu, who said only a few people can afford to buy from vendors whose sell N100 per jerry can, noted that the wastes from households are also washed in the pond, exposing the residents to cholera.
A resident of El-Wasiri Area of Minna, Habiba Mohammed, said the problem of water scarcity has persisted for over a month, appealing to the government to come to their aid to alleviate the suffering of the people.
Another resident, Adamu Mohammed, who manages the borehole donated to the area by the member of the State House of Assembly representing Bosso Local Government, Malik Madaki Bosso, said residents trek over two or three kilometres to buy water at a cheaper rate.
“It has not been easy for us. But by the grace of God, we shall survive. People trek long distances to buy water from us because we sell 10 litre of Jerry can for N10. The reason why we are collecting this money is to enable us maintain the borehole. Even without light, we have a generator that we put on for 24 hours to pump water. But I tell you, the population of people who troop in here daily to fetch water is beyond imagination. Instead of buying from truck pushers at the cost of N700, people come here to buy at the cost of N10 per Jerry can,” he said.
Mrs. Maimuna Raji Egigogo described the situation, especially in this month of Ramadan, as a nightmare.
“Water challenge is like a nightmare. Since we entered the dry season, the whole thing has ceased. It has become very difficult for us to access water. We buy a truck of 10 jerry cans between N700 and N1, 000. And sometimes, you don’t even see the vendors; you have to suffer before you see them to buy. And you have no choice because water is a basic need in human life, especially those of us with children. The experience has been pathetic.”
In the Maitumbi area, a resident, Hajiya Mairo Mani, said they rely on wells to get water for domestic use.
Mr. Ben Ogbage who resides in Chanchaga said they buy water on a daily basis for domestic use as water boards no longer supplies water to even areas connected to pipe borne water.
Another resident, Aliyu B. Abdulmalik, said many wells have dried up since the beginning of the dry season. “I have a well in my house from which other residents fetch but it has dried up. Now, I also buy water from vendors on a daily basis.”
A water vendor who simply identified himself as Yahaya said they also find it difficult to get water to sell to their customers as most of the points from where they fetch water rely on electricity; which is often not regular.
“We can only fetch when there is light. Sometimes, we trek a long distance to get water. That is why we increase the price. The distance we cover and the inconveniences in search of water also determines the price.”
Water scarcity hits Kano too, residents lament sufferings amidst Ramadan
Similar to the situation in Niger, residents of Kano metropolis and some rural areas of the state are also experiencing water scarcity which has plunged them into suffering and has affected their daily activities.
The incident, which came with the hot season, also led to the hike in the price of the water in areas that rely on water vendors, thereby adding to the hardships faced by residents.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that during this Ramadan period, which usually comes with a dire need for water, many residents cannot get water easily and have to join long queues to fetch water under the scorching sun despite the fasting. Some of them lamented that they have to trek long distances to get water while observing fasting.
“Since the beginning of Ramadan, we’ve been suffering to get water. The water vendors no longer sell to us, they’d always tell us it’s finished.
“Just yesterday, my children and I had to sleep without taking our bath because we couldn’t get water. The little we got was used for cooking and we couldn’t even wash our plates,” said a mother, Huwaila Idris, in Dandinshe area of Ungogo Local Government.
It was also gathered that the eight metropolitan local government areas of Kano State are facing water scarcity. When our correspondent went around most of the areas, residents narrated their ordeals in getting water. They also lamented that the state government is no longer doing anything to provide tap water for the citizens and that many have given up on that.
Majority of the residents now rely on the commercial boreholes that were dug mainly to sell water to water vendors.
Some areas observed to have been facing difficulties in the state include; Kurna-Bachirawa axis, Yakasai-Munipal axis, Hotoro-Mariri axis, Brigade, Tudun Murtala, Dorayi and some parts of Kofar Ruwa, among many other places.
A community leader in Kofar Dawanau area of Dala Local Government Area, Musbahu Musa Mamman, said for many years now, they haven’t seen tap water in the area and that every day they spend over N500 to get water, especially during the dry season and fasting period.
“Honestly, the government has relented in finding a solution to the water scarcity in Kano. I haven’t heard of anything like a water project in Kano and every year, you will see the issue in the budget. Boreholes are now everywhere and only rich people can afford to own one. We the masses rely on the commercial boreholes to get water which is also expensive due to the increase in diesel price and shortage of power.
“I have never seen when the price of 25 litres of water reached N100 until this time around. We buy above N100 this season. Even the sachet water, there was a time during this fasting I bought a sachet at N25 and this is due to the negligence of government,” he said.
Narrating his ordeal, Sulaiman Muhammad of Tudun Murtala, Nasarawa local government said despite the rampant boreholes in the area, residents almost on daily basis end up exchanging blows over water.
“Honestly, in this area, Tudun Murtala, people have been facing water scarcity and suffering a lot. Prior to Ramadan, there was the availability of water. The price per 25 litres was N30 (three weeks ago) but now the price has skyrocketed to N120 for the same 25 litres, sometimes even N150, especially in the evening.
Reacting to the situation, the water vendors and borehole operators and owners gave the hike in the price of diesel and shortage of power supply as reasons behind all the suffering, adding that they too are not happy with the situation.
“Every day, we spend N45,000 on three Jerry cans of diesel only. So, we have to add the price to earn a little profit otherwise we will run at a loss. Some places rely on electricity and these days it is nowhere to be found. We hardly get 2 hours in a day. So, once there is no light, then no water,” one of the boreholes operators said.
However, the Kano State Water Board said the state government is committed to providing adequate tap water for the residents and that it won’t relent on that.
The Public Relations Officer of the board, Habiba Muhammad, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the recent closure of the dam which is undergoing repair and power outage is what escalated the situation, adding that the situation will be resolved once there is an improvement in power supply.
On its part, the Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) has attributed the recent power outage in the state to the “sudden loss of about 400MW due to vandalism which consequently led to a cascade of plant shutdown across the country.” It, however, assured of improved and stable supply of electricity.
Muslims coping with fasting under Maiduguri’s scorching weather
As Muslims in other cities are faced with challenges of water scarcity, Muslims observing the Ramadan fast in Maiduguri and other areas in Borno State are faced with the scorching weather condition ranging between 43 to 45 degrees Celsius in many parts of Borno State.
The situation has compelled some Muslim faithful to break their fast at noon recently due to the weather conditions which led to some people being dehydrated, especially those engaged in hard labour with reports of many slumping and later being resuscitated with water.
In one of the incidents at Gamboru Market, a labourer named Yau slumped while uploading some consignments in a truck in the market last week. He was, however, resuscitated by safety agents in the area.
Yahaya Umar, who witnessed the incident, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the hot weather was responsible for the dehydration of the victim. “He was loading goods into vehicles when he suddenly slumped because of the intense hot weather condition which made him dehydrated and he fainted. However, he was revived by some first aid workers.”
In another incident, a middle-aged man who fetched firewood at Gongolori area on the outskirts of Maiduguri to sell in the metropolis, also slumped at the Tashan Kano Motor Park area.
An eyewitness, Bashir Nura, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the man got to the Tashan Kano Motor Park, slumped and went unconscious. “He was resuscitated by members of the public.”
The scorching weather condition have forced many residents of Maiduguri to intermittently pour water on their head and sometimes their whole body, while many others consistently bath with cold water to reduce the heat.
Although Maiduguri and some major cities across the state witnessed its first rainfall recently, nevertheless, the scorching weather condition has continued.
Findings indicate that the situation has weakened economic activities in the afternoon as low-income earners, petty traders, artisans, labourers as well as hawkers on the streets hang around different shades until late evening when they return to their respective businesses.
A vulcanizer at Baga Road Abubakar Mohammed told Daily Trust on Sunday that the scorching sun has unsettled their activities, “You can see a customer brought his tyres for repairs but I can’t do it now because of the sun. Despite pouring water on the floor to reduce the heat, the condition was unbearable. Since I came in the morning, I have been in my neighbour’s shop because the current atmosphere is not conducive for work.
Mohammed noted that the situation has reduced their daily income.
“Yesterday I only repaired three tyres because of the condition, unlike before when I repair between 10 and 20 tyres a day. My pocket is empty and I need to work before getting what to feed myself and my family but working under this sun is unbearable during Ramadan fasting,” he said.
A resident of Damboa Road, Abubakar Mohammed, lamented that the weather condition has worsened the austere economic conditions of the poor people in Maiduguri amidst high cost of commodities.
“The weather condition has continued to deter poor people from fending for themselves because fasting under intense hot weather requires enough energy and with the Ramadan fasting, it is not possible to combine. We are praying for God’s intervention to subside the hot weather so that we can equally worship Allah and also engaged in one or two jobs to take care of our families.”
Mohammed said though the state government had assisted some residents with food items as charity and Ramadan gifts but a lot still needs to done to rescue many whose means of livelihood has been affected by the scorching weather condition in Maiduguri.
Findings also revealed that the poor are also battling with the increase in price of drinking water, which has skyrocketed from 100 per cent to 200 per cent depending on the areas within Maiduguri. A cart of 10 jerry cans which sold between N150 and N200 has increased to N350 to N500.
A water vendor at the Bolori area, Umar Yusuf, attributed the increase in water price to the extreme heat being experienced in Maiduguri which he said has resulted in some wells drying up or having less water.
Yusuf narrated that pushing the cart under the scorching sun during the Ramadan fast is difficult, especially in the afternoon.
“It is difficult to carry out five trips in the afternoon, unlike in the past when you can do about 10 to 15 trips a day.”
Despite the harsh weather, however, the situation has created an opportunity for some small-scale traders, especially women, young men and children to make some economic gains.
Our correspondent observed that young men and children make brisk business selling cold drinks and ice block on major streets, roads and markets in Maiduguri. A young man, Abdullahi Saleh, selling ice block at the Post office area told Daily Trust on Sunday that almost every day, he sells the whole consignment of the ice block assigned to him by his boss, “I sell everything given to me to sell. Not a single one is left at the end of the day. We thank God for the good sales.”
From Abubakar Akote (Minna), Hassan Ibrahim (Maiduguri) & Zahraddeen Yakubu Shuaibu (Kano)