Monday 29 October 2012

Eid-el-Kabir amidst insecurity

As Muslims celebrate the Eid-el-Kabir worldwide, most Nigerians reminisced on how they have had to persevere amidst uncertainties ranging from various natural and human induced challenges that have been their lot in recent years.
The country has continued to suffer increasing cases of insecurity, economic depression, flood disasters, socio-political tension as well as fuel scarcity that have crippled economic activities in major cities across the country, with increased transport fares. Prices of food items especially rams, foodstuffs and livestock remain on the high side.
Eid-el-Kabir is a period when the Muslim faithful takes out time to offer mandatory but special prayers to Allah, the Almighty. During this time, they are also mandated to carry out sacrifice by slaughtering rams, while the old and young persons among them are expected to turn out en masse to observe the festival.
Like recent years, however, this year's festival is not without fears of the lingering nationwide challenge and the recurring decimal-where terrorist attacks have been carried out, killing hundreds of citizens during these periods. The situation is the same when their Christian counterparts observe their festivals too, as what seems like reprisal attacks are experienced. 
However, it is no more news that, in Nigeria prices of food items naturally go up in these periods and this may not be unconnected with calculated attempts by the traders to unnecessarily make more profits. A market survey reportedly shows that there is increase in prices of ram by 100 per cent in Lagos and some other southern states. Also, there are indications that few days before this year's Sallah, there is a dramatic increase in prices of rams and other animals that are approved for the sacrifice in Abuja, Kaduna, Borno, Kano and other states northern states in the country. 
For instance, a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said many ram sellers in the FCT attributed the inflated prices to the increase in transport fares and insecurity in the northern parts of the country. Consequently, they have found it difficult to travel to neighbouring countries where rams are affordable. 
Alhaji Danladi Usman, a ram seller in the metropolis said the prices of ram were higher than last year noting that high cost of transportation was responsible. 
He pointed out that the price of ram was between N20, 000 and N100, 000, depending on the size, adding that the size of a ram sold for N20, 000 last year, now sold for N30, 000 this year, while average-size ram was sold for N60,000 as against N35,000 it sold last year's Sallah.
The current insurgency in parts of the North has equally been blamed for hike in prices of ram, while the long queues seen at filling stations is said to be responsible for high transportation fare. These factors have led to a low-key celebration. 
Again, a survey conducted by Peoples Daily Weekend in Abuja shows an upsurge in price of the general goods and services and other necessary items needed for the celebration. In an interview with Abdulfatah Muhammad, a food stuff and fish seller at Babangida Market, Niger state, he lamented that the recent flood has brought about inflation in virtually everything. For instance, some days to Sallah, a bottle of groundnut oil and palm oil were sold for N250 and N200 as against the former price N220 and N170 respectively.
Another marketer, Mrs. Ladidi Abba revealed that, "the cost of yam is now expensive, before we could get many pieces from N5, 000 and below depending on the quantity you want, but it has now risen to N15, 000. Every food item is so expensive now. Plantain is scarce these days. When we go to buy it, the story we hear is that there is no road due to flood which makes it difficult for them to transport it. But the price of sweet potato is constant, it has not changed." 
Also, a business man who deals in food items at Utako market in Abuja, Malam Musa Jibrin has similar version of the story when he complained that flood disaster which affected many states has contributed largely to the hike in the prices of food items and livestock in the Federal Capital Territory.
Meanwhile, critics said the recent release of water from the Lagdo dam in Cameroon, which resulted in flooding thereby covering some major highways and grounding transactions in various states in Nigeria, was indeed another bottleneck. Most hit areas include the Abuja-Lokoja highway, a major road linking the North with the Southern parts of the country. This has raised a fresh concern on the journey stress the faithful would undergo when travelling for Sallah if they attempt to take alternative ways which are in bad shapes. 

In the last couple of months, attention has also shifted to Yobe state in the attacks of the Boko Haram sect, as the once serene state has become a battle ground. In fact, residents who had earlier thronged the state for safety now flee in droves. The first incident which probably proved right the fears of security agencies was that of November last year, barely two days to the Eid-el Kabir celebrations when some suspected members of the sect laid ambush on Damaturu and Potiskum towns, killing more than 100 people mostly policemen, while several churches were bombed.
Few days to Sallah panic gripped the people of Maiduguri as the JTF announced it had received fresh information indicating that insurgents were planning to launch massive attacks in the state during the Sallah festivities with the support of foreign mercenaries. It equally advised the public to purchase sufficient food stuff and other routine household needs as curfew might be imposed in the event of the breakdown of law and order.
"Information available before the JTF indicated that the Boko Haram was planning to launch massive attacks on military and civilian targets in Borno state before, during and after the Sallah celebrations. Subsequently, the terrorists have sought the support of foreign mercenaries to partake in the attacks," it warned.
In the last Eid-el Fitr celebrated two months ago, Kano Emirate Council had cancelled all traditional public Sallah celebrations including the famous 700 years old Durbar. The news of the cancellations of the celebrations broadcast in the middle of tension which had taken over the state following the earlier attacks by insurgents on the heel of the banning of the I'tikaf prayers. 
However, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar in a recent courtesy visit to Gov. Rabi'u Kwankwaso of Kano state issued a statement that security challenges in some parts of the country would soon be over.
"The issue of security challenges will soon be a forgotten issue as the force will continue to do everything possible to ensure sustainable peace and stability in the country,'' he said.
In August 2011, Jos the Plateau state capital was engulfed in bloody violence, leaving over 20 people dead and over 50 others injured. In the violence, members of the 'Izala' sect who celebrated the end of the Ramadan were attacked by youths along Rukuba Road, a Christian dominated area while going for prayers at a Mosque located in the area. Over 100 motorcycles were burnt during the attack. 
The same phenomenon would have been recorded in the 2012 Eid-el Fitr, but the quick intervention of security personnel had averted the bloody Sallah celebration in the state. It was reported that some Muslims youths, while returning from the prayer ground in Farin-Gada area of the town, threw stones at houses in the area and smashed cars parked at the premises of some churches and attacked motorists.
The action angered some youths in the area, which is predominantly occupied by Christians. They came out to the major roads ready for a show-down but for the timely intervention of security personnel, who shot into the air to disperse them. It was however reported recently that gunmen had killed two policemen and injured two others at the Yakubu Gown Airport Police Outpost in Heipang, near Jos.
Surprisingly, Kogi state is becoming another horrific zone in the North as it presently struggles with both natural and man-made disasters. Recall that in August, 2012 some unidentified gunmen opened fire in a crowded Deeper Life Church near the Federal College of Education in Okene, leaving 15 worshippers dead. Following the attack, the Kogi state Police Command recovered a vehicle found to contain six AK-47 rifles and 11 live magazines a day to Muslims Eid-el Fitr celebration.
As Nigerians continue to groan under the agonies of fuel scarcity, another set of obstacles had gripped the faithful, who wished to travel to various parts of the country and celebrate Sallah with their families and friends, as rise in prices of public transport became unaffordable to many. Commercial drivers blamed this on the increase in fuel price and unethical attitude of petrol stations in some cities. For instance, recently, it was reported that Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) had shut down about 20 petrol stations at the Ikorodu axis of Lagos state for selling petrol above recommended price of N97 per litre.
According to the NAN, motorists in Abuja have continued to lament the dangerous situations and called on the Federal Government to find a lasting solution to the fuel crises. The scarcity has also paved way for the black market operators, who now sell at exorbitant rates. The Agency reported that petroleum now sells for between N110 and N150 per litre in some filling stations, while the black marketers sell a 4 litre Jerry can for N3, 000. 
But, a survey carried out in the FCT a day to Sallah showed that long queues have been resolved in most petrol stations in the city. 
Peoples Daily Weekend has learnt from a group of fashion designers in Abuja that the fuel scarcity and the national economic meltdown have affected the level of patronage they get. Mr. Onikola Abdulganiyyu, a fashion designer said: "This Sallah, the major problem I faced is fuel scarcity because I need electricity to do my work effectively. Since the supply of light is not regular, I resort to using generating set which must be fuelled. Each time I go to petrol station with a gallon to get petrol, they would not attend to me, so I had to pull out the tank of the generator." 
"This is a major setback. People bring their clothes for design but there is no petrol to fuel the set needed to do the work. Despite the fact that I just started operating here, people have really patronized me this Sallah but most of the clothes I sew this season is that of children. This is because most adults are complaining about lack of finance to purchase attires for the celebration. However, despite the economic challenges, the cost of purchasing the thread I use in designing remains the same", he said.
Another fashion designer, Mrs. Jatau has also laid emphasis on the national economic hardship when she said: "We thank God for witnessing yet another Eid-el- Kabir celebration. Nevertheless, things are so hard this year to the extent that people cannot afford to get sallah attires unlike last year. So we are experiencing hard times this sallah period. The government should do something to curtail further occurrence in the subsequent festive periods so that people will have the purchasing power to acquire attires for themselves."
Regrettably, Nigeria has suffered an era of socio-economic challenges, particularly from the series of attacks from insurgents. For example, the analysis of the World Investment Report (2011) of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) showed that the Nigeria has lost some N1.3trillion as a result of attacks by the Boko Haram sect. In addition, the report revealed that Foreign Direct Investment to Nigeria fell to N933billion in 2010 from N1.3trillion in 2009 representing a decline of 29%. The situation is not only dimming the local economy but also scaring away foreign investments and increasing the cost of doing business in Nigeria.
An investigation carried out by Kano State Centre for Research and Documentation showed that the January 20, 2012 multiple bombs explosions in Kano metropolis had marked the beginning of a more precarious condition of doing business in the city. Following this, all sectors of the state's economy are being affected. The hospitality industry is currently experiencing very low patronage, traders are complaining of low sales and manufacturers are cutting down on their expenses to adjust to the situation. 
In most states in the North, the devastating socio-economic effects of the sect's serial killings and bombings, especially in Borno, Yobe, Niger, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau (which is more of ethno-religious conflict), Kogi, Bauchi and recently ,Sokoto, has destroyed economic and commercial activities with many people relocating to other places.

Sallah periods are associated with merriment and other religious rites but this particular Eid-el-Adha celebration was adversely affected by the economic hardship.
Dutse residents who spoke to Peoples Daily Weekend explained that financial challenges being encountered across the country made the annual ritual to lose its glamour.
Alhaji Munkaila Abdullah who is a resident of Takur and a staff in the state Ministry of Information declared that the state government did its best by paying salaries before the 20th of the month. He however observed that the cost of ram which is on the high side reduced the value of the salary, so he had to settle for very small ram this year.
Alhaji Munkaila said he bought the small ram at the rate N28, 000 out of a salary of N36, 000. The remaining amount he said may not be able to sustain his family of seven after the Sallah period.
According to him, he told his wife and her children not to expect any new clothes but to wash the ones they used during the last Sallah.
A housewife living in Gida Dubu quarters, Hadiza said she was able to save some money with which she bought some materials for herself and two kids.
Hadiza said her husband is a police constable and she engages in petty business of selling materials to government officials on credit and later collect the payment when salaries are paid.
She said her husband bought them a small ram even though he had been posted out of the area for special duty.
Another middle aged woman at the new Dutse central market disclosed to our reporter that she was going to celebrate the Sallah in low key way because both she and her husband work with an NGO and had not been paid their salaries.
Although Jigawa has no much security challenges like other states, security was also beefed-up around the recognized Eid grounds and some parts of the state capital.
Malam Isa, a civil servant who said the congestion at his bank prevented him from collecting his salary, condemned the Federal Government's pronouncement of Thursday as among the public holiday.
He said there is no wisdom in making Thursday a public holiday, a situation that made the banks refuse to open on Thursday and also close before their official closing time of 4 pm on Wednesday.
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Malam Abdul Jinjiri said police and other para military outfits were working round the clock to ensure the security of lives and properties during and beyond the Sallah.

In Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, the Emirate Council put necessary measures on ground in the area of traffic arrangement and security to ensure a hitch-free exercise. 
Peoples Daily Weekend observed that the Eid praying ground along Irewolede\Asa Dam area was harrowed by tractors while security agencies were seen parading the area.
The Secretary to the Emirate Council, Alhaji S. Adedeji Lawal in an interview with our correspondent at the Emir's palace disclosed that all necessary measures to ensure a free and peaceful Sallah was put in place by the Emirate Council.
While speaking on the significance of Eid-el- Kabir to mankind, an Islamic Cleric, Mallam Ali-Kamal Abubakar said Nigerians should emulate Prophet Ibrahim's sincerity, fear of God and obedience to Almighty Allah.
Abubakar recalled that Eid-el-Kabir originated from the time of Prophet Ibrahim when he asked Almighty Allah to give him a child at the age of 105 while his wife Hajarat was 85 years, stressing that the trial was a test of faith.
He noted that lessons from Prophet Ibrahim were fulfillment of promises, obedience to Almighty Allah and to one's parents.
He added that slaughtering of rams and other sacrificial animals without fear, obedience and goodness to neigbours would not be accepted by Almighty Allah.
Abubakar however appealed to all Muslims in Nigerians including nation's leaders to observe justice and equity in the course of governing the country.

In line with the identified challenges, the Zazzau Emirate cancelled the annual Eid-el-Adha Durbars usually staged during Sallah festivities.
The emir's protocol officer, Alhaji Abubakar Ladan made this known to our correspondent saying Sallah Durbar would not take place because of same reasons that stopped the Durbar during the Eid-el-Fitr.
During the Eid-el-Fitr, the emirate said it cancelled the Durbar to allow time for residents of the Zazzau emirate to pray for the return of peace to the country.
There were however reports in certain quarters that the Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris, has been out of the country for about 20 days.
Sources closed to the palace said the emir was out of the country on "a medical trip." 

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