BY IFEANYICHUKWU NWANNAH
The tears of the destitute will continue to be a matter of fact in Nigeria as long as nobody cares to make a systematic survey of their economic background and how they eat. This is something of a clearer picture that has emerged about the group involved even though the quantitative importance of this group is not taken very seriously but it matters a lot.
The establishment of the Zakkat endowment board was to protect the interest of the needy in the society by the government but it is now seemingly surreptitious manoeuvered by some elements who seemed poised to turn the board into another gold mine leaving the needy to remain as nonentities. Many analysts have question the inability of this board with the vigor’s and the precision with which the Zakkat was known with.
It has now become clear to see or hear about fraud in the Zakkat board, that its aims and objectives have been defeated as it is no longer a digest of God’s treasure. The establishment of law may seem easier and straight forward for the law makers but consolidating and enforcement of the law into practice seems greater a task to be accomplished even though Shariah is taking a strong hold in the Muslim communities, yet the ZAKKAT is not yielding enormous support and acceptance in Zamfara state that first implement shariah in the country. This is true that the establishment of Zakkat committees charged with the tasks a direct distribution of collectable Zakkat to the needy.
The Zakkat is suppose to be placed on oil wheel by disposing all the necessary machineries within reach. Some of the people interviewed by this medium said the Zakkat collections is suppose to be meant to help care for the less privileged in the society thereby help alleviate poverty and destitution. But most of these groups, claim they have not seen anything even from the state government’s own contribution contrary to the cardinal objective of the Zakkat to support the introduction of the shariah legal system which the Zamfara state claims to be operating since 2000.
The boards have not displayed their sincerity to raise Islam to a greater height, through sensitizing Muslims on their right and responsibilities in an Islamic community. It is quite clear that the destitute are severally affected; they are the group that seek help everywhere and figure most prominently in crowds liming up in the North asking for food and alms. There are over whelming evidences that the destitute face the acute problems of hunger and starvation of which many of them are seem sleeping on the road sides after toiling for the whole day, weak and tired, looking for daily bread and alms. The beggars are feeling the negative impact of destitution and the governments should be blamed for the predicament because of government insensitivities and lack of commitment to the welfare of destitute.
In a study carried out by this medium, it was discovered that they are not remarkably represented, it is also clear that the northern part of Nigeria stands out as having very much higher incidences of destitute. Even in absolute numbers, they provide more than three quarters of all the destitute in the country. But while the North may have been hit relatively hardest in absolute numbers, the destitute were dominated by children who are supposed to be in the schools, the aged who have nothing to lean on are still there on the streets. In terms of numbers, the population are mainly made up of the youths. The bulk of the destitute came from different communities and are children of nobody in the society.
Women and children are drawn from the surrounding communities and formed a majority of the destitute population. Some of them are said to have been migrated from the neighbouring countries and others from road side villages in the north and their peripheries, consisting of professional beggars, they are hit by the hard economic times.
Interview with some of them also threw much light on the sequence of destitution as the economic crisis deepens, there are now and unusually large movement of people in search of food and alms.
Among the places to which the migrants came are local government towns especially Gusau, the state capital. They come to beg for living or seek where nobody cares. The vast majority of the destitute in this case earn their livelihood by begging and eating from the dustbins or food rejected in the restaurants.
This is a common phenomenon affecting the country. The beggars suffer mostly from hunger and starvation. But, of course living on charity has made that much more difficult. With the influx of men, women and children who came into the urban areas for professional begging, seeking for survival, after migration into the urban areas. This unfortunate system is the indirect result of the government failures.
The Emir of Dutse in Jigawa State, Alhaji Nuhu Mohammed Sanusi who is also the chairman committee on Zakkat, Dutse Emirate voiced out in anger saying that as the case of destitute that has been attracting opinions and views suppose to be seen as a conjoined task that rests on many shoulders under the full support of the governments. He agrees that the influx of the destitute especially the lunatics is growing a lot of concern to the public. He submitted that it is the responsibility to be shared by the government, traditional institutions and philanthropists.
Though most governments do not care for the establishment of destitute home because it has its own problem as the social set up of the people in the north does not encourage isolation. But the governments need to take census of all the destitute and give them numbers or tags in their hands so that if they run away to the streets, they can be identified by the governments, the Emir had said.
By doing this, the destitute will feel that they are in their own environment and very comfortable with the government and their families. By so doing, there will be lesser problems. The Emir made it very clear that the Zakkat is a very clear system of distributing wealth to the needy. Therefore, the government ought to know, if it don’t know that the problem of destitution its responsibility. Therefore, two questions can be asked here, since destitution is seen as a profession, is there any inconsistency in assuming that the government have failed in its responsibility since it cannot take care of the dependence on the society.
The answer is yes. There is no inconsistency to assume that the government has failed. Secondly, the economic distress of the destitute is not confined only on the problem of the people but can be hurtful to the society. This has rather two distinct parts; one affecting the destitute and the other happening in a very rich country like Nigeria.
Policies about the development of the destitute are not working in Nigeria because there is no serious survey of the destitution which has been conducted. The government can only work towards this if it studies the economic condition of the victims as a result of a sound survey may be of a great relevance to those much affected by destitution. The lack of proper attention by the government as it fails to properly tackle which has been widely noted and criticized. In tackling this aspect of problem several alternative approaches need to be taken, varying from incentive schemes.
Again, the food problem of the population depends crucially on this set of institutional factors affecting food security. There is also need for a mechanism for directly tackling the problem of vulnerability through public institutions guaranteeing food security.
The problem becomes acute since there is no permanent arrangement, no social security and employment protection. What is needed is not ensuring food availability but guaranteeing food security. The destitute are already chronically dependent on the remnant from the people food table despite the fact that Nigeria is a very rich country but manages her economy very badly by a set of greedy people.
Though the enormity of the economic problem facing Nigeria has been widely observed, the fear of population running ahead of food production has been regularly voiced. It is therefore very difficult to dismiss the problems and the fear. But what comes irresistibly from the proceeding analysis is the danger of concentrating only on crude oil, overlooking agricultural sector on which the survival of millions of Nigerians crucially depended before the discovery of petroleum.
The focus on population and food supply would have been innocuous but for what it does to hide the realities that determines who can command how much food. Even with oil Nigeria remains a traditionally rural economy in many significant aspects. There has been welcome development recently to move back to the improvement of the agricultural activities.
It is clear that even the group of poor is too broad a category, and it is possible for the proportion of the population below the poverty line to fall while those who are in poverty experience deepening of their deprivation.
BY IFEANYICHUKWU NWANNAH