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A tale of two persons

A food attendant at Haruna Engineer’s N30 Restaurant

Our regional pullouts are also referred to as ‘stories from the grassroots.’ But they might as well be ‘stories from human souls’ as the following two items from last Wednesday’s collection showed.

On page 24 of Daily Trust’s November 13th edition, in the Caliphate Trust, was the soul-wrenching story of a fraudulent human being, who specialized in defrauding the poor and destitute. The news item was titled ‘How beneficiaries of Dangote’s N10,000 grant were short-changed in Sokoto.’

On the opposite side of that page, that is on page 25, was the heartwarming story of the N30 restaurant. This news item from Kano, tells the story of a man who established an eatery where the meals cost only N30, in order to help the poor and the needy. It is titled ‘Why I established the N30 restaurant’ – Haruna Engineer.

No one needs to be told that these two persons are at the opposite ends of the morality spectrum. The one, a selfish human being who could stoop so low as to deduct as much as 70% of what was donated to destitutes by other kinds souls, when she herself did not qualify to be a beneficiary.

While the other, a humanitarian at heart, whose sole desire was to help feed the poor though, he himself qualified to be called poor. Encouraged by his equally kind wife, Haruna Engineer invested the only money he had, which was a mere N450, to open a restaurant which provides meals that cost no more than N30 per plate.

According to the Caliphate Trust, an elderly widow in Shuni village, who was enlisted as a beneficiary of the Dangote Foundation’s N10,000 grant, was summoned by the wife of her district head, known as Lami whose husband is the Sarkin Gabas and given an ATM card with her name on it. After being instructed on how to use it and gain access to the donation, the Sarkin Gabas’ wife told the widow to collect the money and bring to her. When she did as she was told, the district head’s wife gave her only N3000 and kept the rest. This widow, who preferred anonymity in order not to end up victimised, told Caliphate Trust that the wife of Sarkin Gabas always did that to her. She recalled that anytime she was given a sack of rice by the Sokoto state Zakat commission, the woman will collect the sack and give her only three small measures (mudu) of it, then keep the rest.

Corroborating the widow’s claims, a village elder in Shuni also said that two women he knew were only given N5000 out of their 10,000 naira grant. It is not clear whether these two were also victims of Lami or some other person of influence but it is truly disheartening to know that greedy and selfish community leaders could engage in such fraudulent practices, just to deprive the less privileged of their much-needed assistance. If such people can’t help the poor themselves, the least they could do is to allow others to help them. But even this is apparently too much to ask of people like Lami, the wife of Sarkin Gabas.

It’s also not clear whether her husband is in cahoots with her on this issue. He declined to speak to our reporter when contacted over the issue. He claimed that he was mourning his daughter at the time. But this is an issue the Sultanate council should investigate, with a view to punishing the fraudsters in this unfortunate incident.

Whether Lami acted alone or along with others, an example must be made of her to prevent future occurrence and to discourage others from doing it.

As for the Haruna Engineer, the kind-hearted Kano man, who staked the little he had to feed the poor, his story started after he heard about the Agric Minister’s claim that a meal can be bought at the cost of N30. According to the Kano/Jigawa Chronicle, Haruna and his wife were discussing the minister’s claim when his wife declared that the minister was right since at her family home a plate of rice costs twenty naira.

After hearing this Haruna quickly invested his only N450 into buying garri, kuli-kuli, ginger and Maggi to start a local dish called kwad’on gari. That same day Haruna and wife got a turnover of N700. They soon introduced rice and beans to the menu and the business just kept growing. Today, he told Kano/ Jigawa Chronicle “We are preparing 10 measures of rice, five of beans, and 10 measures of garri every day. We usually start at 11 am and close at 8 pm. As at now, we have a capital of more than N300,000 because some people have donated cash to me after I started the business.

I have also acquired a certificate from the government for the formalization of my restaurant, which I named N30 Restaurant and I’m planning to open branches in all the 44 local government areas of the state.”

Haruna Engineer’s customers are full of praises for his efforts. One Tahir Nura Muhammad told our reporter “It cost me only N120 for the four plates I bought. When I heard about the man I could not believe it until I came here and saw for myself. It is a plate of rice and beans plus sachet water at the cost of N30.”

Another one, Malam Ibrahim Idris, said he had been eating there since it opened a month ago and had just bought three plates of Wasa Wasa for himself and his two friends. “This is a good initiative which will help many people in this community. I can tell you that since this restaurant opened many people have stopped cooking in their homes. They rather send their children to buy food here.”

He, therefore, added “I think government should come to the aid of this man because he is really helping the less privileged families, not only in this community but also in neighbouring communities. Government should assist the man with capital so that he can expand the business to help more people.”

And I agree with this customer. For starters, the Agric minister, who started this whole debate should personally acknowledge Haruna Engineer’s efforts at proving his N30-meal theory right, by visiting him and donating whatever he wished in order to encourage him. The state governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, should also provide Haruna with funds and working tools, like he did the Maishayis in Kano, in order to empower him more and enable him to provide employment for others. For now, it is crystal clear that because of his good intentions Almighty Allah has already blessed his business/ humanitarian mission with success.

On the converse side, Lami and her fellow fraudsters have already been exposed as dishonest and enemies of the poor. Diligent investigation should be made to ensure that they are punished the way they deserve.

This article was first published on November 16, 2019. Keep watch for an interesting edition next week.

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