| ABU NMODU, OLAOLU OLADIPO, ABDULLAHI OLESIN, DONATUS NADI, MAIRO MUHAMMAD MUDI, and AHMED USMAN Cover Stories News

As billions of Muslims across the world celebrate the Eid-el-Fitr, MAIRO MUHAMMAD MUDI, Abuja, DONATUS NADI, Lafia, ABDULLAHI OLESIN, Ilorin, ABU NMODU, Minna, USMAN AHMED, Kaduna and OLAOLU OLADIPO, Lagos report that the celebration would be low-key for millions of Nigerian Muslims reeling under the current economic crunch in the country.

Muslims across the world are in celebratory mood as they bid the month of Ramadan bye with Eid-el-Fitr festivities. Muslims in the country are also celebrating, albeit in muted manner under the harsh economic realities foisted on the nation by the ruling elite and the state of insecurity nationwide.

Times are indeed hard in the country. Speaking with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND on the preparations for the Eid, Principal Research Officer, National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT) Zaria, Kaduna state, AwwalSanisaid: ?The Sallah preparations this year are a bit low-key because of the gloom that overwhelms us all as a results of incessant losses of lives and property in this country. People are not really happy. But despite this, we will celebrate the Sallah and we will go for Eid and the children will wear new clothes and visit friends and relations.?

A housewife in Katsina, Hajiya Maryam Uthman, said ?though things are costlier, we are able to prepare well for the Sallah. The security challenges in some places make the situation gloomy, but people are contented despite Tahajjuh prayers being banned in some states.?

Musa Baba Jibrin, a military officer in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state envisages a subdued celebration, saying: ?Life there is normal as in everyday and Icannot see anyone preparing for the coming occasion under the current situation in the country.

In DamaturuYobe State, Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim Sheriff, a lecturer, explained that the crisis in the state capital had killed off the usual excitement associated with the Sallah celebrations among residents.

He urged the government to protect the people during the period and beyond.

For the first time in fifty years, this year?s Eid-el-Fitr celebrations in Kano will be different. Reason: The annual event will miss the usual pomp and pageantry, and the traditional horse riding that marked the festival.

As the emirate council suspended the celebration, the Emir, Alhaji Ado Bayero, will only attend the prayer session at the Eid ground outside the city at Kofar Mata on the first of the month of Shawwal after the end of the Ramadan fast.

A statement from the emirate council formally announced the suspension of all traditional celebrations, in view of the health condition of AlhajiBayero.

Traditionally, the Emir receives greetings from his subjects as he passes through various quarters. He stops in some locations where some senior citizens come out and pray for him and continue on the procession.

From time immemorial, this has been the practice since the coming of Islam into the ancient city of Kano, as the history of Sallah Celebration goes without break.

Dr Mahmud Zubair Imam, a resident of Kano, lamented that the economic situation in the country ?is gloomy, as most people cannot afford the luxuries associated with the Eid period. People are unhappy, broke and are feeling insecure, which is affecting the general mood of this year?s preparations.

Mallam Imam Mohammed Sani, the Chief Imam of Waff Road Mosque Forum, Kaduna observed that the hasher economic climate and insecurity in the country made this year?s Ramadan hard for the people.

He expects that the Sallah celebration would also be low-key for these reasons.

One would only know that the Eid celebration is in the offing on the streets of Lafia, the state capital through conversations among residents and notby any increase in the purchase of food and gift items as was the case in better economic times.

MallamDanjuma, a tailor in Lafia Central Market, lamented low patronage as the Sallah approached. He longed for the past when he was forced to lose sleep in order to finish off sewing Sallah attires for his numerouscustomers.

He said: ?I have over 100 sewn unclaimed clothes in my shop and some people have not even paid a kobo in payment. Despite the fact that I sew clothes for as low as N600 for plain and N1000 with design, people still find it difficult to pay up.?

Mrs. Veronica Allu, who deals on agro-allied supplies,blamed the government for not paying salaries in good time for civil servants in the state to celebrate the Sallah, since this is the main source of income for many in Nasarawa.

Musa Ali, a Fulani at the in Lafia cattle market lamented poor patronage, stressing that by this time last year he had soldmore than 50 cows.

Ali blamed the situation on the fuel subsidy removal by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, which he said had increased the cost of transporting livestock and reduced the people?s purchasing power.

In Kwara state, Muslim faithful are also celebrating the Eid-el-Fitr in a subdued manner because of the economic situation inthe state and the country as a whole.

Kwara is a civil service state and as a result most workers and their dependantsrely solely on salaries for their upkeep. Though, the state government is not owing its civil servants, most workers have exhausted their July salaries due to higher expenditure during Ramadan. It is uncertain if the August salaries would be paid before the Sallah.

Also, most local government workers have not received their June salary.

The absence of prominent political leaders and top government functionaries from the state, who are in Saudi Arabia for the lesser Hajj (Umrah), is also being felt by the people, as they would have normally enjoyed financial assistance from them.

The economic crunch notwithstanding, the faithful in Ilorinare preparing as best as they could to celebrate.

Butthe early payment of August?s salary to civil servants engendered frenzy in the preparations for Sallah in Niger state.

LEADERSHIP Weekend noticedbusiercommercial activities at the Suleja IBB International Market during a visit. The prices of some goods remained high as they were in the Ramadan while the costs of clothes, shoes tomatoes, vegetables and foodstuff were surprisingly low.

Some civil servants described the early payment of salaries as ?unprecedented,? adding that the development would make the Eid celebration joyous for them.

But one of them, MallamAbu Jinjiri, cautioned his colleagues against spending all their salaries during Sallah since ?there is a longer period to wait for now till the next payday.?

But a federal civil servant, NdamanAliyu, said they only received last month?s salarybarely a week ago, which he had used to settle debts incurred to start the Ramadan fasting.

Aliyu lamented that federal workers like him would have a muted celebration for financial reasons.

However,many political office holders in the state have abandoned their offices to avoid those who normally visit them to solicit financial assistance during celebrations like Sallah.

One personal assistant to a commissioner, who preferred anonymity, said though his principal was back from the lesser hajj, he had kept away from the office.

He added: ?As you can see, we have over 20 people coming here every day to seek for Sallah?goro.? (literally kola nut, figuratively, monetary gift)  Even if oga has N1 billion I can tell he may not be able to meet the demands, so he decided to avoid here.?

Meanwhile, the state Commissioner of Police Mrs Desire Nsirim has assured of adequate security during the Sallah celebrations.

And,the Lagos state government has announced that its Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) services would be free during the celebration.

Already, major highways in the state like Mobolaji Bank-Anthony road, Ikorodu road and the Falomo roundabout have been decorated for the Sallah by the government.

LEADERSHIP WEEKEND discovered that the prices of foodstuffs have remained stablein markets across the state.

?The prices of our merchandise have not changed because people have not been coming to buy things.May be when the holiday declared by the government starts, they will come,? a traderat Oregun model market, Gladys Akpan, said.

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