This year’s Ramadan fast started throughout the country yesterday, but the holy month will be observed under unusual circumstances as Muslim faithful in several states face the coronavirus lockdown amid unpaid salaries.
Muslims face a peculiar Ramadan period this year with virtual lockdown in almost all sectors of the nation’s economy and social life as evidenced by the highly recommended social distancing and movement restrictions. The beginning of the fast is made more unusual among civil servants who have yet to get this month’s salaries. In Bauchi State for instance which is under partial lockdown, civil servants are yet to get their April salaries, same as in many other states.
A Bauchi-based civil servant said as a civil service state, nothing goes on without salaries. “I am currently under personal lockdown because of the unpaid salary. I cannot buy anything for the Ramadan fast. Yesterday, my neighbor gave me N1000 to buy some items to start the fast, unlike before when the government usually paid workers even before the month end to assist us prepare for the fast,” he said.
Another civil servant said; “I have two wives and six children, I’m supposed to stockpile food items to feed them, but I cannot because there is no money, and that has greatly affected our kitchen. We are still waiting for the salary. “In the past, the situation was different, I am supposed to buy some things for my children in preparation for Sallah to avoid exploitation from traders, but with the inability of the state government to pay salaries, the hope is completely dashed.
And this lockdown will not allow someone to explore other options to look for money, so we are in a deep problem, but God will intervene.” Elsewhere in Kaduna, civil servants said they were in “double lockdown”, as they expected their salaries earlier than now to cushion the effects of the 24-hour curfew imposed on the state to curtail spread of COVID-19.
As at yesterday afternoon, Daily Trust Saturday gathered that they were yet to get salary alerts. “We are facing a double lockdown,” said a civil servant with the Ministry of Justice who requested anonymity. “We are not yet paid and we are not allowed to go out even when Ramadan has commenced, that is double lockdown,” he said.
He said the administration of Malam Nasir El-Rufai was known to pay salaries on time and was considerate at festivities including the Ramadan period, adding, “I can’t say what caused the delay this year but the government had in the past considered the month of Ramadan when it came to salary payment.”
Another civil servant said, “We were hopeful that salaries would be paid on Friday, especially since the Ramadan has commenced but from all indications, we are not getting it perhaps till next week.” He said he expected the salary as feeding his family had been a challenge since the lockdown started.