It is a bleak Barka da Sallah today
• Economic crunch forces Muslims to prioritise school fees over rams
It is that time of the year again when Muslims across the world celebrate the holiest festival in their calendar, known as Eid-el-Kabir or Sallah.
The festival honours the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Isma’il as an act of submission to God’s command, before God stopped him in his tracts, informing him that his sacrifice had already been accepted.
The meat from the sacrificed animal is usually divided into three parts. The family retains-one-third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbours; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy.
However, the state of the economy is taking its toll on the celebrations as economic hardship, dwindling disposable income and abrupt hike days leading to the festival in commodity goods, especially rams, will make today’s celebration a low-key affair.
The significance of the Sallah rams to Muslims cannot be over emphasised. It remains a core tenet of the Islamic faith. So important is the slaughtering of ram at Sallah, that it permeates the rich and the poor.
But going by the prevailing economic crunch in the country, many Muslim faithful could not afford rams this year. Although there was a similar development last year, this year’s seem to have been further deepened, especially with the galloping and unpredictable exchange rate that has persisted through the year.
Traders at a ram market in Agege area of Lagos have blamed this development on a further decline in the economy, devaluation of the naira, poor circulation of money in the country, terrorism in the northern part of the country from where rams are brought, among others.
“We used to be very optimistic that sales would improve weekly and daily as the festival approaches, but the reverse is the case as people are not turning up at all.”
Also, the Ram Sellers Association, Isoko Garage in Igbudu Market, Warri South Local Council of Delta State yesterday stated that police extortion on highways as well as the high rate of tax paid to government were responsible for the increment in prices of rams and goats.
Chairman of the association, Shaibu Mohammed, made the assertion in a chat with newsmen. Mohammed said a ram, which sold for N120,000 last year is now being sold at the rate of N180,000 while goats are being sold between N18,000 to N22,000. “You pay for every ram at where you buy and you also pay tax to the Government of Niger before you cross to Nigeria. To transport one ram from Niger to Nigeria is N4,000. Police extortion is another reason and it is very high. That is why rams are on the increase this sallah.”
However, it is a bleak Sallah that awaits many Muslims across the country as the festival is holding some few days to a new academic session. Findings show that many Muslim parents have opted for low-key Sallah celebrations and will prioritise their children’s education and payment of their tuition over merriment and the buying of rams.
A federal civil servant, Mr. Tunji Adeniran, said he would not buy rams for the festival because doing that would affect the payment of his children’s tuition.
He said: “We have not been paid salary for August and I have no money in reserve. But even if I get paid after the holidays on Tuesday, I will use the money to pay for the school fees of my children who will be resuming next week.”
Alhaji Muritala Olabisi said for the first time as a family man, he would not be buying rams for Sallah. “I only intend to go to the Eid praying ground and return home to my family. It is very unfortunate that we are experiencing a period like this; this has never happened to me before. Life is so tough for the people. The little money I have now cannot be spent on celebration. In few days from now, schools will resume and I have to pay my children’s school fees.”
Meanwhile, the police in Borno and Yobe states have placed restrictions on movements of people and vehicles during the Sallah Eid prayers in the state. The measure is part of security reorganizations to ensure hitch free celebrations in the security challenged states.