Posted by Habibu Umar Aminu | 24 June 2017 | 1,656 times
Every year, especially during the Ramadan, hundreds of less privilege people seeking alms and assistance throng the homes of wealthy individuals. It is usually a period when the rich normally give out Zakat, one of the pillars of Islam.
Zakat is an Islamic obligation that purifies wealth and a form of alms giving treated as a religious obligation, ranking next to prayers (salat) in importance. The distribution of Zakat usually takes place at the residence of one Maah Gafai in Rafindadi area of Katsina metropolis every year. For years, alms seekers have converged in his house, especially during the last ten days of the Ramadan, to collect Zakat from him. This year’s Zakat distribution however did not go well. The turnout, according to neighbours, was unprecedented. It was a mammoth gathering of mostly women and children of different ages, waiting to collect alms.
As early as 4am, people started gathering with a beehive of activities, access roads were blocked, just as people kept coming in from different directions. Although, the philanthropist, Gafai, was said to be on the Lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia, one Kamal, believed to be his son, took up the responsibility of the disbursement.
As the disbursement started, each person was being given N500, and a stampede ensued, as many people tried to outsmart others to collect the money. Our correspondent gathered that the stampede started as some people decided to call large numbers of family members so they could get more money.
A neighbour, Hassan Musa, said for instance; “You would find a woman coming with her grandchildren from a far distance so that instead of getting just N500, she would get over N3,000, depending on the number of people she came with.”
Five children lost their lives in the stampede while 15 others were injured and taken to hospital, confirmed by the state police command.
Witnesses said one woman delivered a baby under pressure at the venue, just as Kamal, the man distributing the money, escaped death in the stampede. Most of the injured were later taken to the General Hospital where staff said they suffered from dehydration and fatigue. Those who were revived were later discharged.
Governor Aminu Masari and top government officials visited the hospital to sympathise with the victims.
The state Commissioner of Police, Abdullahi Usman, said investigation had commenced on the matter, noting that it wasn’t as a result of any criminal offence but was an unfortunate incident that could have been avoided.
Although, he did not speak much on the matter, it was gathered that a key suspect, Kamal was arrested and is helping the police to unravel what went wrong. This was not independently verified before press time.
The coordinator of Gender and Social Inclusion Platform, Ambassador Gidado Suleiman, said the incident had further exposed abject poverty among the people and unusual ways of giving Zakat to the needy.
He said there should be human dignity in whatever we do, adding that the time had come for government to reposition its Zakat board if any, or borrow from neighbouring Zamfara State, how Zakat is collected and distributed.
“In Zamfara, the board links up with community leaders where people are shortlisted and monies collected from wealthy individuals are used for those selected,” he said.
Doing such will check this ugly trend, he added.
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