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In Sokoto, Zakat provides lifeline for widows, poor, orphans

By Tadaferua Ujorha (Who Was In Sokoto)
26 June 2022   |   2:45 am
Given the rising poverty, neglect and injustice in the country, Zakat- a tax on wealthy Muslims - comes as a golden lifebelt to the poor and downtrodden.

A school supported by the Qatar Charity

Given the rising poverty, neglect and injustice in the country, Zakat- a tax on wealthy Muslims – comes as a golden lifebelt to the poor and downtrodden.

According to Sani Umar Jabbi, Sarkin Yakin Gagi, and Sokoto State, the capacity of Zakat to alleviate poverty, restore hope to orphans and widows and transform lives and entire communities cannot be overemphasised.

He stated: “Five years from now, I believe many of the youth would have been empowered, and may even start paying back. They would have achieved some optimal level of wealth and will be supporting the less privileged themselves. There will be zero out-of-school children, zero street hawking, and zero begging.

“We will transform the hours spent hawking into active school hours. We will have more female doctors and more lawyers. We have 87 district domains under the Zakat commission, and we also have 560 villages under these 87 districts. There are 6,672 settlement heads under the villages. At the top of this, we have the Sultanate council members. We are all working together in the collection of Zakat.”

Gagi, which is located in Sokoto South Local Council, is a multi-cultural and multi-religious community, with a long history of tolerance and harmony. From the information provided by the commission, the state has a population of 5.7 million persons, 17.89 per cent is designated as very poor, and 80 per cent of the population practices farming as a primary occupation.

IDPs at Gandi

Expatiating on the work of the Zakat commission, Jabi said it also helps the needy with skills acquisition. His words: “For instance, in the fields of shoemaking, knitting, and tailoring. Needy people are identified from the 23 local councils and 87 district domains.
“The commission spends months giving them training and capital. It has improved the per capita income of the average Sokoto person enabling them to have, at least, a small business, and this is a great help today.”

According to him, “before the intervention of the commission, the population of area boys here was high. With the fresh flow of income into many hands, there are more girls in school now. This has also helped to reduce domestic disputes as well as drug addiction because these youths are currently engaged in trades as a way of improving their lives. Social inclusion has increased and gender-based violence has reduced.”

The Executive Chairman, Sokoto State Zakat and Waqf Commission (SOZECOM), Muhammad Lawal Maidoki, adds that the concept of Zakat “is an Islamic levy paid by rich Muslims to deserving recipients.
“It is a means of purifying one’s wealth. It is a portion of one’s property that needy members of society have to be given. It is a guarantee not only to eradicate poverty but create permanent employment, in order to reach a higher stage of economic and social development in every society that practices Zakat.”  

Recipients of the Sokoto red goat

At a recent event in Sokoto, Maidoki, who is an Engineer as well as Sadaukin Sokoto, underscored the commitment of the commission to ensuring the well-being of the less privileged. He outlined a ten-year blueprint by SOZECOM to curb the menace of poverty in the state by 2030 noting that Zakat is a unique people-oriented social intervention strategy with roots in Islam.

Free education for orphans
Also speaking during a visit to the school, which is made up of various newly built structures, Director, Waqf Services of SOZECOM, Mohammed Jamil Ibrahim, said: “This is the Waqf land donated by the family of late Sultan Muhammadu Maccido.  It was built by the Qatar Foundation, and the purpose is to provide free education for orphans.

“An international standard bakery has been constructed so that the bakery will be used in funding the daily management of the institution. Also, there is the hospital wing which is established to cater for the orphans and the public. The public will pay for the service rendered to them so that the money accrued will be used for the school. Shops will be constructed and all the accruals will aid in managing the institution.”

Well built by its commission

During the recent flag-off of distribution of Zakat and state government assistance for orphans and the needy across 87 districts in 23 local councils of the state, Maidoki disclosed that since 2014, the commission has been collecting Zakat and Waqf and distributing the same to deserving persons in line with Islamic injunctions.
He said in 2021, over N2billion was realised as Zakat, and will be distributed along with state government Ramadan and Sallah assistance, respectively, adding that this year, over N396million has been procured for Ramadan assistance through the Zakat commission.
Sokoto state government packages were distributed to the needy in Isah and Bafarawa districts by SOCOM. In either district, hundreds of orphans received five yards of cloth, accompanied with N1,000 for sewing purposes. Another group, comprising the aged and divorcees, went home with a 5kg bag of grains, as well as N5000, while 100 children in each district benefited with cloth and cash at Eid el Fitr. A bull is usually slaughtered for the same group during the Eid-el Kabir.

The member representing the Yabo constituency in the Sokoto State House of Assembly, Abubakar Shehu Yabo, who was present at the Zakat commission, added some perspectives. He noted that each month, the Zakat commission remits some amount to health facilities in the state, where people with such problems normally go.
Yabo continued, “after seeing the doctor, he will make a prescription which the committee will look into, and assist the patients in solving some of the problems. Some may go for surgery, medical check-up and treatment. Zakat takes care of some of these patients. It also assists the less privileged by training them on how to get jobs that can be of help to them from day to day.”

Tree Waqf
On the tree Waqf project at the Government Girls Secondary School, Sokoto, Ibrahim stated: “We have the tree Waqf project. Under this project, we provide one hectare of land in each of the 400 boarding schools in Sokoto state, as also the tertiary institutions, and boarding primary schools as well. This is one of them. It was launched by Sultan Saad Abubakar on October 18, 2018. There are 220 date palms here. It is in its third year and it has started fruiting. If everything goes well here, a single date palm can produce 320 kilogrammes of date seeds in this farm in the next five years.”
He maintains that when fully grown and fruiting properly, the date palms will take care of the school without the need for government subvention. “For example,” he explained, “50 kilogrammes of dates costs over sixty thousand Naira. You can get sixty thousand naira multiplied by six for a single date palm, and that’s over three hundred thousand Naira. This represents big money, and it fruits twice a year. If you get this money, it will add to the income of the school.

“In the current set up, we have poor students, with no money for uniforms, books, materials, items which are always needed. All these will complement these expenses through the tree waqf.”
The Sarkin Yakin Gagi spoke on the benefit of trees, noting: “Climate change is due to human activity, including the felling of trees, thereby exposing land for degradation. The best way to address the impact of climate change is to plant trees, and every year, the Zakat commission celebrates World Habitat Day.

“They plant more trees and also launch a campaign for all the citizens in the state to join them and plant trees. They have projects in schools, which allow the younger generation to become more climate-friendly. In my community, for the first time, they planted dates. If you go to so many schools, you will see that they have planted trees which the pupils nurture.”

SOZECOM Hospital
One remarkable aspect of the commission’s intervention in the state is the SOZECOM Hospital located in the Farfaru area of Sokoto, where each doctor works for 2 hours a week.

As a strike-free hospital, doctors volunteer to work, even as the hospital organises annual medical outreach. There is also a physicians-across-continents programme. This helps patients who require surgery but have no money, as well as those whose resources are insufficient for medical intervention.

As a result of these interventions, many persons with cataracts have been treated, just as medical bills have been settled, including payments for drugs and surgery for more than 7,000 patients. There is the treatment of psychiatric patients on a continuous basis, and a welfare package was also given to a mother of twins.

SOZECOM has entered into a partnership with various pharmacies across the state, whereby drugs are provided for indigent persons. The commission undertakes to settle the bills for such persons. In a month, this amount can be as much as a million. A turnaround in terms of positive health statistics is taking place.