‘NAZAS was established to take care of vulnerable people in the society’
Recently, NAZAS, a non-governmental organisations established three years ago with the aim of giving succour to the under-privileged in the society, gave out N10 million in gift items and cash donations to 64 beneficiaries during its Muharram disbursement of Zakat and Sadaqat at its Zone Two located in Ipaja area, Lagos. The outgoing National Executive Committee member of the agency and currently a Deputy Director in the Department of Fisheries and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Lagos State, Alhaja Suwebat Kupolati, spoke with The Guardian about the agency’s mission and vision and why it is committed to assisting humanity
Can we have an insight into who you are?
My name is Alhaja Suwebat Kupolati. I am a Deputy Director in the Fisheries and Rural Development Department in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Lagos office. I have been working in that department in the last 32 years. My father, the late Alhaji A.A. Jimoh was a civil servant and rose to the position of Permanent Secretary in Federal Ministry of Defence during General Yakubu Gowon’s era. And during the advent of democracy in 1979, he was given a political appointment as a commissioner in the Federal Civil Service Commission representing Kwara, Niger and Kogi States in charge of recruitment.
How would you describe your growing up?
I am from Ilorin in Kwara State where my parents hail from, but was raised in Lagos where I began my early education. I attended Ireti Primary School, Lagos and was later sent to Federal Government College, Ilorin for my secondary education. My father sent us (my siblings and I) back home for secondary education so we could mingle and familiarise ourselves with the environment. We were like local champions when we arrived. But were able to mix very well and made a long-lasting friendship that has even lasted till today.
I entered FGC Ilorin in 1973 and finished in 1978. I proceeded to Kwara College of Technology for one year and enrolled at School of Basic Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State and later enrolled for a degree in Zoology and graduated in 1983. I had my NYSC in Kaduna and later joined the federal civil service as Fishery officer one, went through the ranks to become deputy director.
Why did you opt for Zoology?
When I was seeking admission to ABU I wanted Pharmacy but was offered Zoology. You know I wanted to get to the University desperately, so I accepted it. I have no regrets because by the grace of God I have risen to the top.
You father being an educated man must have helped you to break the jinx, as girl-child education is still an issue in some part of the country. Is it so?
My father was educated and worked in the Federal Civil service throughout. He was a very liberal Muslim and wasn’t forceful, and because I went to a mixed school, I was a nominal Muslim until I got married in 1986 and realised that I needed to be modest in my dressing, especially the covering of head as a Muslim woman.
How did you get involved with NAZAS?
NAZAS is an offshoot of NASFAT. My journey with NASFAT started when my family relocated to FESATC and I joined the Amuwo Odofin branch in 1999. In 2003, we moved to VGC and I joined the Eti-Osa branch where I became the Women Affairs Secretary. After two years, I became the branch secretary. When the zonal started at the National Headquarters, I was moved to become Zonal Affairs Secretary for the zone where I served for two years before I became the National Secretary and was going to the headquarters in Alausa for activities. I joined other seven board members of NAZAS when it was founded in 2014. Mr. Niyi Yusuf is the chairman
What does NAZAS stand for?
NASFAT Agency for Zakat and Sadaqat (NAZAS), a non-governmental organization set up with the purpose to improve the livelihood of the less-privileged in the society: the needy, the poor, widows, travelers, mosque coordinators, these Zakat is disbursed for the benefit of these people. Our other aim is to collaborate with organisations or individuals of like minds to carry out humanitarian activities that will benefit the masses.
How does NAZAS identify these beneficiaries and are there any kind off monitoring assessments to make sure the money disbursed is wisely spent?
Initially, we used to advertise on radio and tell them the website where they can obtain the application form online. Again, in the area of selection, we have a technical committee that does the screening of the beneficiaries and select those whose cases are genuine and need urgent intervention. When the money is given to them we check on them occasionally. In fact, we started an evaluation working group to visit these beneficiaries as see what they are doing to ensure that the funds are judiciously used.
How often does the agency support the vulnerable in the society?
The recent one, which took place on September 24 at Zone two in Ipaja, benefitted 64 beneficiaries. At the commencement of the programme in 2014, the agency doled out over N36 million on empowerment programme while in June 2016 during Ramadan, it also gave out N6 million. Last October, the organization also carried out its third intervention empowerment programme where over N8million worth of items, which included industrial machines, sewing machines, whipping machines, deep freezers and cash donations were given out according to the needs of the individuals. The past 235 beneficiaries impacted by NAZAS range from 86 students on educational scholarship support, which cuts across primary, secondary, tertiary, visually impaired, law school and prison inmates. It also embarked on empowerment and business support for SMEs, debts bail-out, health related cases/medical support, business and accommodation support for converts/reverts to Islam. And presently, over 50 students are on regular annual scholarship list. The agency’s benevolent act is not limited to individuals alone, as it had reached out to the vulnerable within the society. In March 2016, it dispatched the first batch of relief materials to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Borno, Yobe and Gombe States. The same gesture was repeated in February this year. Beyond empowerment and cash donations, the agency through its public health initiative and in partnership with MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Centre) is collaborating with the Islamic Medical Association of Nigeria (IMAN) in providing free medical services to the downtrodden in underserved locations across Lagos State. This February, over 500 persons benefitted from its medical mission carried out at Akasoleri area in Ikorodu while another programme is scheduled for next month. In June 2017, it also distributed money and vocational tools to over 25 individuals.
What new project is NAZAS working on currently?
The agency is currently partnering with Muharram Sisters, a group of Muslim women and other non-governmental organizations, to set up vocational facilities and welfare scheme for the inmates in Ikoyi Prisons. Their impact is already being felt as the group provided meals and training equipment for the inmates during the last Ramadan.
Are there plans to extend to other areas?
Well, it has always been a Lagos affair but we are planning to expand. A pilot scheme has kicked off in Abeokuta, Ogun State and we intend to go to Abuja as well because we have our members scattered across the country. Recently, NAZAS broke new grounds with its zoning system.
What is it all about?
Well, on September 24, 2017, NAZAS had a disbursement programme at NASAFT Ipaja branch where items and cash were distributed to 64 beneficiaries comprising of 36 females and 28 males including four Hausas and two Igbos. Our activities have been concentrated at the headquarters in Alausa, Ikeja. Now, it has been divided into Zone 1 and 2. Ipaja where we had the programme falls under Zone two. The motive is to showcase NASFAT and its activities to our members in this zone.
How would you rate its success?
We have been very successful but we can still do more because there are many people out there who need help and assistance. Since its inception three years ago, over N100 million has been spent so far.
Are you fulfilled?
The greatest thing you can do is to assist your fellow human being. Not only that, the help also extends to the fellow’s immediate family. There is a gender consideration this time as more women are empowered. As an organization we believe in the general saying that if you empower a woman you have actually transformed a nation because women are very hardworking and they can multi-task. They are the one that look after their immediate family. Now, we have Hausas and Igbos among the beneficiaries. The religion teaches us to be kind to our fellow human being irrespective of his or her background.
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