Given the growing poverty, neglect and injustice in the country, Zakat – a tax on wealthy Muslims – is a golden lifeline for the poor and downtrodden.
According to Sani Umar Jabbi, Sarkin Yakin Gagi and Sokoto State, the ability of Zakat to reduce poverty, bring hope to orphans and widows and transform lives and entire communities cannot be overstated.
He said: “In five years, I believe a lot of young people would have been empowered and could even start paying back. They would have reached an optimal level of wealth and will support the less privileged themselves. There will be zero out-of-school children, zero peddling and zero begging.
“We will turn peddling hours into active school hours. We will have more female doctors and more lawyers. We have 87 district estates under the Zakat commission, and we also have 560 villages under these 87 districts. There are 6,672 heads of colonies under the villages. On top of that we have the members of the Sultanate Council. We all work together in collecting Zakat.
Gagi, which is located in the local council of Sokoto Sud, is a multicultural and multi-religious community, with a long history of tolerance and harmony. According to the information provided by the commission, the state has a population of 5.7 million people, 17.89% are designated as very poor and 80% of the population practice agriculture as their main activity.
Speaking about the work of the Zakat commission, Jabi said it also helps the needy to acquire skills. His words: “For example, in the fields of shoemaking, knitting and sewing. People in need are identified from the 23 local councils and 87 district estates.
“The commission spends months giving them training and capital. It improved the per capita income of the average person in Sokoto, enabling them to have at least a small business, and that’s a big help today.
According to him, “before the intervention of the commission, the population of boys in the neighborhood here was high. With the new revenue stream in many hands, there are more girls in school now. It has also helped to reduce domestic conflict as well as drug addiction, as these young people are currently engaged in trades as a way to improve their lives. Social inclusion has increased and gender-based violence has decreased.
Executive Chairman of the Sokoto State Zakat and Waqf Commission (SOZECOM), Muhammad Lawal Maidoki, adds that the concept of Zakat “is an Islamic levy paid by wealthy Muslims to deserving beneficiaries.
“It’s a way to purify one’s wealth. It is a part of his property that the needy members of society are to receive. It is a guarantee not only to eradicate poverty but to create permanent jobs, in order to reach a higher stage of economic and social development in every society that practices Zakat.
At a recent event in Sokoto, Maidoki, who is an engineer along with Sadaukin Sokoto, underscored the commission’s commitment to ensuring the welfare of the less privileged. He presented a ten-year plan by SOZECOM to reduce the threat 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 constructed structures, SOZECOM’s Director of Waqf Services, Mohammed Jamil Ibrahim said, “This is Waqf land donated by the family of the late Sultan Muhammadu Maccido. It was built by the Qatar Foundation, and the purpose is to provide free education to orphans.
“An international standard bakery has been built so that the bakery will be used to finance the daily management of the institution. Also, there is the hospital wing which is created to accommodate orphans and the public. The public will pay for the service rendered so that the money accumulated will be used for the school. Stores will be built and all accrued expenses will help run the institution.
During the recent launch of Zakat distribution and state government assistance to orphans and the needy in 87 districts of 23 local councils in the state, Maidoki revealed that since 2014, the commission has been collecting Zakat and the Waqf and distributes them to deserving people. people in accordance with Islamic injunctions.
He said that in 2021, more than 2 billion naira has been made in the form of Zakat and will be distributed with the help of the state government for Ramadan and Sallah, respectively, adding that this year more than 396 million naira have been purchased for Ramadan assistance through the Zakat commission.
Sokoto State Government parcels were distributed to the needy in Isah and Bafarawa districts by SOCOM. In the two districts, hundreds of orphans received five meters of fabric, along with N1,000 for sewing purposes. Another group, made up of elderly and divorced people, went home with a 5kg bag of grain, along with 5,000 naira, while 100 children from each district benefited from Eid clothes and cash. El Fitr. A bull is usually slaughtered for the same group during Eid-el Kabir.
Member representing Yabo constituency in the Sokoto State Assembly, Abubakar Shehu Yabo, who was present at the Zakat committee, added some perspectives. He noted that every month, the Zakat commission pays a certain amount to state health facilities, where people with such problems normally go.
Yabo continued, “After seeing the doctor, he will make a prescription which the committee will review and help the patients with some of the issues. Some may undergo surgery, medical examination and treatment. Zakat takes care of some of these patients. It also helps the less privileged by training them on how to get jobs that can help them on a day-to-day basis.
Regarding the Tree Waqf project at the government secondary school for girls in Sokoto, Ibrahim said, “We have the Tree Waqf project. Under this project, we are providing one hectare of land to each of the 400 boarding schools in Sokoto State, as well as tertiary institutions and primary boarding schools. It’s one of them. It was started by Sultan Saad Abubakar on October 18, 2018. There are 220 date palms here. It is in its third year and it has started to bear fruit. If all goes well here, a single date palm can produce 320 kilograms of date palm seeds on this farm in the next five years.
He argues that when they reach maturity and fruit properly, the date palms will take care of the school without the need for government subsidy. “For example,” he explained, “50 kilograms of dates cost more than sixty thousand naira. You can get sixty thousand naira times six for just one date palm, and that’s over three hundred thousand naira. That’s a lot of money, and it pays off twice a year. If you get this money, it will increase the income of the school.
“In the current setup, we have poor students with no money for uniforms, books, materials, items that are always needed. All this will supplement these expenses through the waqf of the trees.
The Sarkin Yakin Gagi spoke about the benefits of trees, noting: “Climate change is caused by human activity, including the cutting down of trees, thus exposing land to degradation. The best way to deal with the impact of climate change is to plant trees, and every year the Zakat commission celebrates World Habitat Day.
“They are planting more trees and also launching a campaign for all citizens of the state to join in and plant trees. They have projects in schools, which enable 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 that the students are raising.
A remarkable aspect of the commission’s intervention in the state is the SOZECOM hospital located in the Farfaru district of Sokoto, where each doctor works 2 hours a week.
As a non-strike hospital, doctors volunteer to work, even though the hospital holds annual medical outreach. There is also a program of doctors across continents. This helps patients who need surgery but do not have the money, as well as those with insufficient resources for medical intervention.
Thanks to these interventions, many people with cataracts have been treated, as well as medical bills have been paid, including the payment of drugs and surgery for more than 7,000 patients. There is treatment for psychiatric patients on an ongoing basis, and a wellness package has also been given to a mother of twins.
SOZECOM has partnered with various pharmacies across the state, through which medications are provided to indigent people. The commission undertakes to pay the invoices of these people. In a month, this amount can reach a million. A turnaround in terms of positive health statistics is taking place.