- Most camps under lock and key
Seated on his prayer mat by the side of his sewing machine, Malam Hussain, who had just done observed his Zuhr prayer, described his tailoring business at the Maiduguri Monday market as devastating as business was at a standstill due to lack of various jobs which he at this time of the year gets from intending Hajj pilgrims.
This years’ business is at a grinding halt for him as his customers who are majorly intending Hajj Pilgrims are now where to be found due to the cancellation of this year’s Hajj over the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At this season of the year, we annually receive contracts of buying and sawing hundreds of pieces of uniforms and Hijab (Muslim women head/body covering wears).
“We were also being commissioned to make other purchases for the travelers,” said Hussain, who described this year as a carrier of many disastrous events that involved losses of lives and business opportunities.
Daily Trust Saturday also gathered that many provision stores and shop owners who relocate yearly to the Hajj camp in Maiduguri during the screening and departure of Pilgrims are not at their respective marketplaces in the camp.
Hajiya Asabe, who runs a restaurant in the camp expressed shock at the fact that the camp still looked empty.
“I would have been there cooking and selling many kilos of rice every day, had the pilgrimage activity been ongoing as they were in previous years. This year is one full of shock and surprises.” she said.
The Kano state Hajj camp has always been a centre of commercial activities for a lot of business especially during Hajj period. However, food vendors, travel bag merchants, waistband sellers, Ihram sellers and other traders involved in accessories for Hajj are counting their loss after this year’s Hajj cancellation .
When Daily Trust Saturday visited the Hajj camp, these businesses operated by small holder traders, showed an almost deserted business area because many traders are affected by this year’s hajj cancellation.
According to Hamisu Bala Kabuga, a trader at the Hajj camp market, many have received their orders of Ihram and waistbands for this year’s Hajj only to learn that it was cancelled. According to him, many of the traders will have to strive and endure all odds to be able to survive the aftermath of the cancellation which will negatively affect their businesses.
“A look around the market, which used to be a bustling place, now a shadow of itself. The cancellation of the 2020 hajj has affected us negatively. It is apparent that many of us will have to seek other alternatives to be able to survive in this business,” he said.
Similarly, Hajiya Karimatu Ade a waistband seller said, the cancellation has forced her to look for other alternatives in doing business as she had committed huge resources in acquiring the waistbands which she hoped to sell to intending Hajj traveler but unfortunately, can’t due to the cancellation.
A visit to the Mando Hajj camp in Kaduna State meet that the camp, which used to be a beehive of activity is a shadow of itself as business owners lament halt in business activities due to the suspension of hajj.
Abdulrahman Abubakar, the chairman of business owners at the camp, said the pandemic has brought new challenges to business owners in the camp resulting in close of shops.
He stated that the inability to conduct business during the lesser hajj showed a tough year ahead because for them, business starts during Ramadan.
“Large number of people come here to sell different kinds of goods to intending pilgrims and since the stalls are not enough, some sell on tables and wheelbarrows. As you can see the place is quiet and this is unusual.”
He said for the past 23 years he has been transacting business in the camp, there used to be high demand of every good he sells, but the future is uncertain for him and others; noting that he is considering going to farm if the situation doesn’t improve which will enable him to get capital to buy more goods for the coming year.
“I get my goods from importers. Buying them is not a problem but selling is. By this time last year the shop was filled with different goods since I know pilgrims will come to buy them especially when they are back.” Returning pilgrims who couldn’t buy some goods in the Holy land most times buy from designated shops when they arrive Nigeria.
In Bauchi state the cancellation of this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia has dislodged many small scale traders transacting business during Hajj season in the state.
One of the traders and a staff of the Arabian Supermarket in Bauchi Muhammed Sani, told Daily Trust Saturday that the cancellation has compelled many small scale traders to find alternative markets to continue their little business.
“You know the business is a seasonal one done during Hajj preparatons. When they announced the cancellation many small traders selling travel bags, padlocks, waistbands and other commodities around Hajj camps looked for alternative market to remain relevant.”
Another trader also affected, Zilkiflu Idris, said that majority of the traders around Hajj activities are facing challenges, “The Hajjj operation market is seasonal business but the major challenge facing small traders in the business is COVID-19 pandemic because it has affected the movement of goods and services and both major marketers and supplies of goods as well as small traders were affected by the pandemic.”
Idris, who owns a shop where he sells bags and Arabian clothes said, “We leave everything in the hands of Allah and we are praying for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic because if the virus continues to spread nothing positive will be achieved.”
When our correpondent visited the Hajj Camp at the Games village in Bauchi, the camp was under lock and key.
Intending pilgrims resolute to wait for next year’s Hajj
However, even though Kano state Pilgrims Welfare Board has revealed that, it will refund Hajj fees deposited by intending pilgrims who desired to retrieve their monies from the board, many intending pilgrims especially those whom this year’s Hajj would have been their first expressed their disappointment but also remained resolute awaiting next years’.
Malama Ummah Bello Kawo told Daily Trust Saturday that it felt bad to miss this year’s Hajj as she has been saving for 3 years to perform the Hajj only for it to be cancelled when she had saved enough to travel.
“It felt bad, but that’s the will of God. I will wait for next year and by God’s grace I will perform the Hajj,” she said.
Another intending pilgrim Malam Abba Ibrahim Soshiya said he is not disturbed as he is convinced that performing Hajj is the will of God, adding that he will not collect his money from the Kano state Pilgrims Welfare Board as he has decided to wait for next year.
On his part, Abu Abdwahid, a first time pilgrim from Makarfi Local Government In Kaduna state, has decided to use his hajj fare for business purposes next year.
Abu who is a Civil Servant and a farmer said, “As a Muslim, I cannot question the will of Allah and since Allah has already written that the 2020 hajj exercise will not happen, there is nothing I can do about it but pray that the situation is the best for us.”
Speaking on how long it took him raise his Hajj fare, Abu Abdwahid said, “It took me three years to pay for hajj and unfortunately the year that I was able to pay, the exercise was cancelled. I engaged in monthly contributions in my office and I was able to raise N160, 000.
“Also during the rainy season, I cultivate my farm and sell off the proceeds and that is what I continued to do year in year out for three years before I was able to pay for Hajj.
Abu says he wasn’t happy when he learned that Hajj for this year had been cancelled but had no choice but to resolve to fate as Allah had destined it would be so
“Allah because he is the ultimate judge in every situation. I pray that we will be alive to witness the 2021 exercise.”
He noted that he will reinvest the Hajj fare when he collects it, with the hope that next year he will be able to pay for himself and his mother.
An intending pilgrim from Bauchi who paid her fees for the Hajj exercise, Halima Mohammed Sani in a telephone interview, said, “I feel very sad for the cancellation of the Hajj but I take the decision in good faith because going on Hajj pilgrimage is divine call and whoever is destined to answer the call of Almighty Allah to Holly land will surely be there.”