Sixty-four beneficiaries went home recently with various gift items and cash donations at a Muharram disbursement exercise organised by the NASFAT Agency for Zakat and Sadaqat (NAZAS), a non-governmental organisation founded to take care of the downtrodden in the society; during its quarterly programme held at Ipaja area of Lagos. Abimbola Akosile reports
Since inception, its slogan has always been to be its â€˜brotherâ€™s keeperâ€™ and it has kept to this over the past three years, putting smiles on the faces of the less-privileged in the society, irrespective of their religious affiliations.
The situation was not different on September 24, and not even the heavy downpour could dampen their spirit as Moslem faithful under NASFAT Zone 2 converged on Ipaja area for the Muharram disbursement of Zakat and Sadaqat, a quarterly exercise organised by the NASFAT Agency for Zakat and Sadaqat (NAZAS), a non-governmental organisation established three years ago to take care of the needy in the society.
Some of the items and cash donations distributed to the 64 beneficiaries, which comprise 36 female and 28 males, including two Ibos and four Hausas, were industrial sewing machines, deep freezers, grinding machines and cash donations to the tune of N10 million.
Incorporated on January 31, 2014, NAZAS commenced operations in May 2014 with the recruitment of the pioneer general and operations manager, and eight members of the board of directors who are specialists in their field. The agency was formally launched on June 21, 2014, which coincided with the first day of Ramadan.
At the commencement of the programme in 2014, the agency doled out over N36 million on empowerment while in June 2016 during Ramadan, it also gave out N6 million. Last October, the organisation also carried out its third intervention empowerment programme where over N8 million worth of items including industrial machines, sewing machines, wiping machines, deep freezers and cash donations were given out according to the needs of individuals.
The past 235 beneficiaries impacted by NAZASâ€™s gestures range from 86 students on educational scholarship support across primary, secondary, tertiary institutions, the visually impaired, Law school and prison inmates.
It also embarked on empowerment and business support for SMEs, debts bail-out, health-related cases/medical support, business and accommodation support for converts/reverts to Islam. And presently, over 50 students are on regular annual scholarship list, THISDAY has learnt.
The agencyâ€™s benevolence 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 (IDP) camps in Borno, Yobe and Gombe States. The same gesture was repeated in February this year.
Beyond empowerment and cash donations, the agency through its public health initiative and in partnership with MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Centre) is collaborating with the Islamic Medical Association of Nigeria (IMAN) in providing free medical services to the downtrodden in underserved locations across Lagos State. In February, over 500 persons benefitted from its medical mission carried out at Akasoleri area in Ikorodu while another programme is scheduled for next month (November).
Headed by its chairman, Mr. Niyi Yusuf, the agency was able to achieve all of this with the support and commitments of donors and kind-hearted Nigerians who have volunteered some of their yearly earnings in form of Zakat. So far, the agency has spent over N100 million in giving succour to the less privileged in the society.
In interviews with THISDAY, some beneficiaries who received cash donations ranging from N50,000, N100,000 to N300,000 and vocational skill items such as industrial and sewing machines, deep freezers and so on couldÂ not believe their luck.
An anonymous beneficiary from Iyana Ipaja, a widow who lost her husband in 2008 and was left with five children displayed excitement to be part of this kind gesture from NAZAS. â€œThis is a double blessing for me because my son received a scholarship from the same agency last year, and today, I have just received N50,000 to boost my petty trading. What shall I say? God will continue to enlarge the coast of the donors”, she said and prayed for continuous success of the agency.
For Tajudeen Pedro, a security man who lives at Sasha area of Lagos, the NAZAS gesture is a timely intervention. â€œI am a security officer and also do petty trading of supply of soft drinks and beverages. But I am currently out of business due to lack of fund. With this N100,000 intervention received this Sunday afternoon, I will revive my business,â€ Pedro enthused.
Akorede Kehinde, a tailor and fashion designer who first filled the application form three years ago, said he got a cheque of N101,000 and a wiping machine. â€œThis gesture will surely play a key role in my life because apart from boosting my fashion business, it will give me extra income by using the wiping machine to work for others. I am grateful to NAZAS.”
Corroborating Kehinde, another beneficiary, Akinronbi Azizat who also received a cheque of N100,000, said this intervention would alleviate her suffering. In an emotion-laden voice she prayed for the programme organisers as they continue to improve humanity.
Admonishing all the beneficiaries to be good ambassadors in their business endeavours, one of the elders of Chairman Council Committee of NASFAT in the zone, Alhaji Kehinde Agunloye enjoined them to use the money and items given to them judiciously as this would encourage the agency to reach out more to others.
Basking in the euphoria of a successful outing in the newly-inaugurated zone, chairman of the agency, Niyi Yusuf who said assisting humanity gives him satisfaction and sense of fulfilment, disclosed that it has been three years since the agency was founded but it was divided into two zones having realised that NASFAT is a society with many branches in several locations.
â€œNASFAT activities have always been carried out in Alausa, Ikeja headquarters. We decided to divide Lagos into two Zones: Zone I and Zone ll. Zone 1 comprises of Surulere, Eti-Osa, FESTAC, Amuwo Odofin and Ikorodu Branches while Zone ll starts from Agege, Egbeda and so on. Today, we are distributing items and cash donations worth N10 million to 64 beneficiaries for the needy in Zone Two Ipaja Branch. We are delighted to expand our tentacles.â€
As the agency continues its humanitarian projects in Lagos and its environs, Yusuf said plans are on the way to expand beyond Lagos as Ogun State where a pilot scheme has been inaugurated while there is an ongoing plan to go to other states.
Speaking on its latest project, he said the agency is currently partnering the Muharram Sisters, a group of Muslim women and other non-governmental organisations to set up vocational facilities and welfare scheme for the inmates in Ikoyi Prisons. Their impact, according to him, is already being felt as the group provided meals and training equipment for the inmates during last Ramadan.
In his lecture titled â€˜The Role of Zakat and Sadaqat in the Eradication of Povertyâ€™, the guest lecturer, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Asamu highlighted the benefits of Zakat and importance of giving to the needy. According to him, the important roles Zakat plays in chasing away poverty are enormous.
â€œWe all know what poverty means in the society. If you call yourself a Moslem and you are still dwelling in poverty, no doubt you cannot serve God wholeheartedly. Poverty is not a good thing as it deprives you of total well-being.â€
Throwing more light on the importance of Zakat and Sadaqat, he said it is a programme ordained by God to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. “The Zakat and Sadaqat go pari parsu and it is one of the pillars of Islam. God commanded that we should give out from our wealth. And once you cultivate that habit of giving you will surely get the multiplier effect from God Almighty,â€ Asamu said, and admonished all to always extend their hand of love to their fellow human beings.