Ramadan, poor Nigerians and harsh economic realities | Dailytrust

Ramadan, poor Nigerians and harsh economic realities

Larai Mu’azu, a widow has to resort to begging to feed her seven children
Larai Mu’azu, a widow has to resort to begging to feed her seven children

As Muslim faithful continue to observe fasting in the holy month of Ramadan amidst soaring inflation of 15.92 per cent in Nigeria, a majority of the population who survive on a hand-to-mouth basis are going through untold difficulty, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

 

Aminu Naganye, Sadiq Adamu (Kano) & Maryam Ahmadu-Suka (Kaduna)

 

The harrowing tales of low-income earners reverberate across the country, with many of them insisting that things have never been this bad.

Some of them who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday in Kano and Kaduna shared their experiences and how they are navigating this difficult time to fulfil this important Islamic religious ritual despite the harsh circumstances occasioned by a plummeting standard of living in the country.

With no or ineffective state welfare package, Good Samaritans and religious organisations’ feeding programmes are grossly insufficient in the communities where poverty, unemployment and insecurity compounded the already tense situation, it was observed.

Muhammad Sani, a resident of Dorayi in Kano city, noted that even before the advent of Ramadan, he and his family barely eat two meals a day.

With his six children, Sani lamented that the “hike in prices and hard economic situation have tremendously changed everything. The concern is not for me but rather for the family – the little children. Life is indeed hard these days, we have no one to beg from. We can only implore Allah to ease our affairs.”

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He called on privileged individuals to support the poor, especially in the holy month of Ramadan.  

For Jibrin Musa from Sagagi Area of the commercial city, whose household had already gone through a scathing experience of three consecutive days without boiling even water in the fasting month, they have resorted to visiting mosques to share his ordeal with other worshippers with the hope that he will get more than sympathy and go back home with what to feed his household.

“I have one wife and six children. Due to the terrible economic situation, we have eaten up my little capital even before Ramadan. I lost my business,” he said, bursting into tears as he narrated his situation.

The emotion-laden Musa further appealed to willing worshippers to “engage me in any capital-intensive activity that could fetch me some money to bring food to the table.”

 

“Even before Ramadan, we could not afford three meals a day. It is two meals we used to afford on good days and sometimes once a day,” said Larai Mu’azu, a mother of seven, who traverses the streets of Kano city during the day begging in the company of her friends.

Larai said her husband died a year ago, leaving behind seven children with no support from anyone.

“With my economic condition I made several efforts to get myself work and my children as well but all effort remained abortive. That’s why we are begging here and there, as we have no capital to start up a business,” she said.

The widow, who described her begging for alms as a necessity, decried that “there was neither support from my family nor from my husband’s family to feed the children as both families are poor,” adding that her two adult children alone cannot provide for the entire family from their little earnings of labouring in the market.

She noted that she goes through some residential areas where food packages are handed out to the poor and vulnerable to get meals for breaking her fast and for her children.

Alhaji Saadu Yusuf, who sells Jallabiya (loose male gowns) at Zoo Road in Kano, said his average sales a day cannot take care of his family’s needs during the holy month.

But unlike others, Yusuf considers himself lucky that his children now assist him in their little ways.

For Lawan Maicharbi, who hawks prayer rosaries across the streets to provide basic essential needs for his family, it is just about survival.

“At least doing this is better than staying idle,” he said, lamenting however, that in the past, his rosary business used to boom during Ramadan, but things have taken a negative turn.

“Since morning till around 5pm, I couldn’t sell goods worth N2000. I manage to survive on what I am able to raise from the market. Some days I can’t get what is required to feed my family,” he stated.  

For Muhammad Abdu, a physically challenged man with one wife and four children, the Ramadan period only brings to the fore what he and his family have been battling for a long time. With no business and any stable means of livelihood, he survives on begging for alms from motorists and passers-by.

“It is never my wish. I detest begging but it is a necessity. That is all I can do. I’m physically challenged. My two hands were amputated and I have nothing to lean on,” he argued, stressing that “When I get what to eat, I quickly return home. I have no alternative. I have a family to feed.”

With little work to earn from Kano, Murtala Mukhtar Yamadawa said he is planning to follow his friend to Adamawa, northeast Nigeria, where he would work on a construction site through the scorching sun to be able to cater for his wife and children.

“I’m a labourer/mason but no work. Prior to Ramadan, a friend invited me to Yola in Adamawa State for a construction job, I rejected it but now I am considering joining him there. I know Yola used to be hotter than Kano but I have no option,” says the father of three young children.

“I find it difficult these days to cater for my family. With five children out of which only two are of fasting age, it is not easy feeding them, especially the younger ones who solely survive on our Sahoor leftover.” 

He bemoaned that the economic situation had affected his daily routine, ranging from his business and family affairs.

“My wife helps to cook food in our neighbourhood and from there she occasionally brings home food. If not because of her, we would suffer more,” he said.

Like those in Kano, the stories of the vulnerable ones in other states like Kaduna are quite similar. For them, the situation has gone from bad to worse as many residents fast without taking the morning breakfast known as ‘Suhoor’ and have no idea what they will break their fast with.

A resident of Rigasa in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Malam Mohammed Yusuf, said he was able to get two cups of beans on Tuesday which his family used to break their fast.

According to him, “I used to be a teacher but I was sacked because I was not able to upgrade my qualification. After my sack, I ventured into several trades but because I did not have enough capital, I ended up using the money realized for the upkeep of my family.

“With the fasting now, we hardly get food for Suhoor but with the help of neighbours, we are able to get something small to break our fast.”

He said he was forced to allow his children to engage in menial jobs to take care of their needs.

Another Kaduna resident, Hauwa Ibrahim, said this year’s fasting came at a very difficult time.

She said even before the commencement of the Ramadan fasting, many families were battling to feed and her family was one of them.

“I am a widow, my husband died two years ago; we have five children, since his death, the burden of taking care of the children fell on my shoulders.

“I am not educated, but I engage in petty trading which is close to nothing, so with the fasting, things have really not been easy. If not for a group of Muslim sisters who came to my community in Tudun Wada to distribute food items to us, we would have died of hunger by now. I must confess that my mind is not at rest because we will be cooking the last of those items they gave and I don’t know how we will continue from there,” she said.

She called on well-to-do Muslims to help people like her, especially during this holy month of Ramadan.

On her part, Amina Shuaibu, who weaves hair in the same area, said she uses the little she makes from her business to ensure that she and her children feed.

She noted that even though her husband is alive, he does little or nothing to fend for the family’s needs but leaves everything for her.

“When I go to weave, some of my customers give me foodstuff; this has been helping me immensely because it cushions the effect of the struggle I engage in on a daily basis,” she said.

For the likes of Bashir, Yamadawa, Abdu, Maicharbi, Hajiya Larai, Musa and Sani, they can only hope that the recently announced N550 million Ramadan feeding programme by the Kano State government will help to reduce their burden while Amina, Hauwa and Yusuf continue to pray that the Kaduna State government will come up with a similar programme and hope for more goodhearted individuals and organisations to continue to reach out to them.

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