Touching Lives

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Recently, 45 indigent persons were showered with gifts and cash donations by the NASFAT Agency for ZAKAT and SADAQAT, a non-governmental organisation which gives succour to the needy in the society. Peter Uzoho captures the emotional moments of this life-changing experience

You could see the frustration written on their faces as they walked into the venue at the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners Hall, Alausa, Ikeja, that Sunday morning where the disbursement took place. One is visually impaired while two other women are on the wheelchairs. The other 42 beneficiaries were able men and women who have seen the other side of life and thought all their hope was lost. So they sat down quietly while the women among them offered prayers intermittently. And even in their state of despair, they were still hopeful. Afterall, the outcome of that day would have a positive impact that would shape their future.

In what could be tagged a life changing experience, on Sunday October 2, 2016, 45 beneficiaries went home with various items and cash donations worth eight million Naira at a disbursement of ZAKAT and SADAQAT ceremony organised by the NASFAT Agency for ZAKAT and SADAQAT (NAZAS), a non-governmental organisation saddled with the responsibility of taking care of the needy in the society. The agency was able to achieve all of these with the support and commitments of the donors and kind-hearted Nigerians who have volunteered to part with some of their yearly earnings in form of Zakat.

Though incorporated on January 31st January 2014, NAZAS commenced operations in May 2014 with the recruitment of the pioneer general and operations manager, and eight board of directors who are specialists in their fields. The agency was formally launched on June 21st 2014 which coincided with the first day of Ramadan.

Committed to touching lives, the agency swung into action immediately through empowerment and scholarship programmes. The past 235 beneficiaries impacted by NAZAS range from 86 students on educational scholarship support, which cuts across primary, secondary, tertiary, visually impaired, law school and prison inmates. It also embarked on empowerment and business support for 15 persons/SMEs, debts bail-out for six persons, health related cases/medical support for 15 persons, business and accommodation support for six converts/reverts to Islam. And currently,, 42 students are on regular annual scholarship list.

The agency’s benevolent act is not limited to individuals alone as it had reached out to the vulnerable within the society. In March 2016, it dispatched the first batch of relief materials to the Internally Displaced Persons camps in Borno, Yobe and Gombe States. This was jointly executed by NAZAS and MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Centre). Also, through its public health initiative, the agency is collaborating with Islamic Medical Association of Nigeria (IMAN) to provide free medical services to the downtrodden in underserved location.

That Sunday event tagged two in one began with its maiden annual general meeting headed by the agency’s chairman board of director and managing director of Accenture Nigeria, Mr. Niyi Yusuf. The purpose was to give accout of their activities in the past years. At the commencement of the programme in 2014, the agency doled out over 36 million on empowerment programme while in June 2016 during Ramadan, it also gave out six million Naira. The third intervention was eight million which included items and cash donations. Some of the items given out according to the needs of the beneficiaries were industrial machine, sewing machine, wiping machine, deep freezer.

After the AGM came the moment they beneficiaries had been waiting for.
Mrs. Aisha Ogunbayo, a physically challenged mother of three who was brought in a wheel chair could not hide her joy for this kind gesture from NAZAS when she was called to come and receive a cheque of N200, 000 to revive her chemical business. “Is this real?” Ogunbayo asked rhetorically. “Nobody has ever done this to me”. She was murmuring as she was being wheeled to the front table. In an interview with journalists, Ogunbayo who has been on the wheel chair since age eight couldn’t believe her fortune.

“This is real. But at the initial stage I was skeptical about it. I am into chemical business but I have been having financial difficulty. I discussed with one of the members and my husband also persuaded me to apply for it. With this intervention, NAZAS have bailed me out of poverty. I would be grateful for ever.”

For Ashafa Amoke, a single mother and a seamstress, she couldn’t have wished for a better Sunday. She got sewing machine, wiping machine and a cash donation to equip her business. “NAZAS is God sent. I am a tailor. I finished my apprenticeship in 2005 with only one machine. Since then I have been struggling to make ends meet. I have not been able to raise money to equip my shop. I pray to God to give me the enablement to be able to pay back. God will continue to bless them and their businesses and as God prospers the work of my hands I will be able to pay my Zakat. And to the people out there NAZAS empowerment is real.”

Just like Ashafa, Taofeek Ahmed who completed his apprenticeship since 2004 has been managing with people because he didn’t have the financial capacity to set up his own workshop. He also received cash donation. “I am happy today that I am becoming my own boss. Today, is a turning point in my life because God has used them for me to be able to become a man of my own. With this money, I would be able to buy welding machine, filing machine, and all the equipment needed.

God has used them. I never dreamt that I would receive such amount of money that would be enough to stand on my own.”
One of the beneficiaries, Abdulfatai Onasanya, a transporter also has a story to tell. “I am a transporter. I had a danfo that had been grounded for years. I have three children and in order for my family not to go hungry, I went into petty trading. With this money I will be able to bring my bus back on the road. Today, my hope is renewed and I am back to business. What can I say? I thank the coordinators of this life changing empowerment programme.”

And for 45 years old Ranti Sodeinde, a petty trader at Ojota garage that Sunday would remain evergreen as she also got fund to revive her business. The 45 year old mother of two lost her husband 11 years ago and life has become unbearable for her and her children. “I have been shouldering the responsibility in the last 11 years. My deep freezer that I used to put my soft drink has broken down. I also do catering rentals but I need money to keep it going. I am elated and excited. I pray that their children will not go hungry.”

Aileru Zainab, one of the organisers and a beneficiary, who was given a generating set, deep freezer and a cheque was also full of gratitude. According to her, she would want to invest into the chemical business and soft drinks. She prays that God will bless the work of her hands so she can also give back to the society.

Falilat Olubori, also received a cheque of N300,000 to expand her business said “I am elated. I used to work in an office but decided to resign and be on my own. Things were not rosy for me. This fund will revive my vision, dreams, and business. There are many of us who wanted help but I was among the chosen. I really appreciate this kind gesture. God bless them.”

For Akewusola Shakirudeen, father of one and an unemployed marketing graduate of Lagos State University since 2008, the intervention was timely. “Since I graduated in 2008, I have not engaged in any meaningful job. I had a brief stint with LASU Muslim community for two years. I also worked with LASU External Systems for two years before we were laid off.

Since then life has been difficult for me. With this N200,000 I intend to invest it in vegetable and palm oil business. Now, I will be able to put my marketing talents to good use. I pray that poverty will be far from them.”
A visually impaired Ahmed Muhammed, a 40year-old father of two, his story was pathetic. Before his present predicament in 2003, he was into of wrist watches. He tried all he could to bring his vision back to life but everything proved abortive. Further medical tests indicated he was not suffering from Cataract of Glaucoma. But his problem persisted. A reprieve came his way briefly but was short-lived as the vision went blank again.

In the process his wife left him.
Since then he has resorted to begging, moving from one place to another. “I have not eaten this morning and most of the time I have to rely on benevolence for survival. My house rent has since expired, my electricity has been cut. I want to go into kerosene business so that my children can take care of it. I want to move back to my home town in Ilorin so that I can pick the pieces of my life. NAZAS has been kind to me by bailing me out of poverty. It will be well with them and their household,” he prayed.

This is not the first time the agency would embark on intervention programme. The case of Lawal Ibrahim Temitope, a visually impaired is still fresh. Maybe he would have ended up in the street as a beggar. The agency sponsored him from secondary school to University of Lagos where he studied law and up till his law school education. Today, Lawal is a qualified lawyer.

Throwing more light on what the agency stands for, NASFAT President Worldwide, Alhaji Yomi Bolarinwa, said what the organisation is doing is not extraordinary as one of the pillars of Islam is Zakat: which means share whatever Almighty has given you with the poor.

“People have given their Zakat and we are gathered here to distribute to those who are considered less-privileged. As a Muslim, you are enjoined to pay ZAKAT and it should be distributed to those who are sick, whose bills are beyond their reach. People who cannot make ends meet, people who are supposed to work but don’t have the means. Basically, to assist people become better Muslims. If someone is gainfully employed he/she will be a better Muslim. It has been a rewarding experience touching lives.”

In an interview with journalists, Chairman, board of director of the agency and managing director of Accenture Nigeria, Yusuf said the inspiration to embark on such gesture is borne out of the five pillars of Islam which says trust in the oneness of God, observe your Salat, pay your ZAKAT, fast during Ramadan and if you have the means go for Hajji. “We realised that people try to observe all but neglect the key one which is Zakat. And this is one pillar that can help reduce poverty in the land. And this is what inspired NASFAT to establish the agency focusing on two goals of NASFAT which are education and welfare (empowerment or poverty alleviation). So far we have spent 50 million naira. These funds come through donations from both NASFAT and non-NASAFAT members. And for you to pay ZAKAT you must be qualified with a value of N750, 000 a year.”

If there is something that gives Yusuf joy, it’s their effort to touch lives through donations from kind hearted Nigerians. “I am grateful that one has been chosen to do this. It is also a sense of responsibility and trust. One has been entrusted with the wealth of others to cater for the needs of the less-privileged. It is a sense of accomplishment and gratitude that little one we are doing is helping others.”

Apart from consolidating on the achievements recorded so far, the agency is now aiming to expand its operation beyond Lagos State to significantly increase the opportunity to make a difference and provide more succour to the needy.
“We started in 2014 and in the last two years, we have been operating in Lagos. In the last board meeting we are looking at expanding to Ogun State and Abuja being the capital.

As the agency progresses, there are two things that can give Yusuf a maximum fulfillment. “I will be happy the day we spread our tentacles beyond Lagos and its environs by going national, I mean spreading to the 36 states of the federation. In the last two years we have been able to distribute 50 million naira. I will be fulfilled the day we get to distributing one billion naira. This will show that we have done a lot in impacting humanity,” he concluded.