Bringing succour to the needy the NAZAS way

SUNDAY October 2, 2016, could be tagged a life changing experience as 45 beneficiaries went home with various items and cash donations worth N8million 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 this with the support and commitments of donors and kind-hearted Nigerians who volunteered to part with some of their yearly earnings in form of Zakat.

Committed to touching lives, the agency swung into action through empowerment and scholarship programmes. 235 beneficiaries who have earlier benefitted  from NAZAS include 86 students on educational scholarship support, which cut 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 people, medical support for 15, business and accommodation support for six converts to Islam while 42 students are still on regular annual scholarship list.

NAZAS’s benevolent act is not only limited to able individuals but also the vulnerable in the society. In March 2016, it sent the first batch of relief materials to the Internally Displaced Persons camps in Borno, Yobe and Gombe states in conjunction with Muslim Public Affairs Centre, (MPAC). 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.

The Sunday event began with its maiden annual general meeting headed by the agency’s chairman board of directors and Managing Director of Accenture Nigeria, Mr Niyi Yusuf. According to him, the agency doled out over N36 million on empowerment programmes in 2014 at the onset while in June 2016, it also gave out N6 million. The third intervention was N8 million which included items and cash donations. Some of the items given the beneficiaries were industrial machine, sewing machine, wiping machine, deep freezer.

Mrs Aisha Ogunbayo, a physically-challenged mother of three who was brought in a wheel chair could not hide her joy when she was called to receive a N200, 000 cheque to revive her chemical business. “Is this real?”  Ogunbayo asked rhetorically. “Nobody has ever done this to me.” In an interview with Nigerian Tribune, Ogunbayo who has been on the wheel chair since age eight couldn’t believe her fortune.

“My sister 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 has bailed me out of poverty. I would be grateful for ever.”

For Ashafa Amoke, a single mother and 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 apprentice 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.”

NASFAT President Worldwide, Alhaji Yomi Bolarinwa said what the organisation is doing is not unusual as one of the pillars of Islam is Zakat: which simply means share whatever almighty has given you with  the poor.

“People have given their Zakat and we have come to give those who are considered less-privileged. As a Muslim, you are enjoined to pay ZAKAT that should be distributed to the 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 and assist people to be better Muslims. If someone is gainfully employed he/she will be a better Muslim. It has been a rewarding experience touching lives.”

Chairman, board of directors of NAZAS and Managing Director of Accenture Nigeria, Mr 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 Hajj’. “We realised that people try to observe all, but neglect the key one which is Zakat, the one pillar that can help reduce poverty in the land. This 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 N50 million. These funds come through donations from both NASFAT and non-NASFAT members. For anybody to pay ZAKAT, he must be qualified with a value of N750, 000 a year.”

“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 the little one we are doing is helping others,” expressed Yusuf.

The agency is now poised to expand its operation beyond Lagos State to significantly increase the opportunity to make a difference and provide more succour to the needy.

Just like Ashafa, Taofeek Ahmed who completed his apprentice since 2004 has been managing with people because he didn’t have the financial wherewithal to set up his own workshop. “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 donation, I would be able to buy welding machine, filing machine and other equipment.”

Abdulfatai Onasanya, a transporter also said, “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 gift, I will bring my bus back on the road. Today, my hope is renewed and I am back to business. I thank the coordinators of this life-changing empowerment programme.”

For Ranti Sodeinde, 45-year-old petty trader at Ojota garage that Sunday would remain evergreen as she also got fund to revive her business. The mother of two lost her husband 11 years ago thus making life unbearable for her and children. “I have been shouldering the responsibility in the last 11 years alone. The deep freezer that I was using for soft drinks broke down and I also needed money to keep my rental business going. With this support, I am elated and excited. I pray that their children will not go hungry.”

Aileru Zainab who was given a generating set, deep freezer and cheque was also full of gratitude.  According to her, she would want to invest in 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 300,000 naira to expand her business. She said,“I am elated. I used to work in an office, but decided to resign and be on my own which brought toughness. But this fund will revive my vision, dreams, and business. I really appreciate this kind gesture for being one of the chosen I pray that God bless them.”

For Akewusola Shakirudeen, father of one, an unemployed 2008 marketing graduate of Lagos State University, the intervention was timely. “Since I graduated, I have not engaged in any meaningful job. I had a brief stint with LASU Muslim Community and LASU External Systems for two years before we were laid off. Since then life has been difficult for me.  I intend to invest the N200, 000 in vegetable and palm oil business. I pray that poverty will be far from the agency.”

A visually impaired Ahmed Muhammed, 40, father of two story’s was pathetic. Before his present predicament in 2003, he was into buying and selling 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 or glaucoma, but his problem persisted until reprieve came his way briefly as the vision went blank again. In the process, his wife left him which led him into begging. “I rely on benevolence for survival most times.  My house rent has since expired. I want to go into kerosene business so that my children can take care of it as I go back to Ilorin, my home town 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.”

Lawal Ibrahim Temitope, a visually-impaired who would have ended up in the street as a beggar remains fresh as he is now a qualified lawyer. The agency sponsored him from secondary school to University of Lagos where he studied Law and Law School.

The agency is now poised 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. We agreed at the last board meeting to look at expanding to Ogun State and Abuja.

“I will be happy the day we spread our tentacles beyond Lagos and its environs by spreading to the 36 states of the federation. In the last two years, we have been able to give out 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,” Yusuf concluded.