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​‘How NASFAT utilizes Zakat to fight poverty’

The Nasrul-Lahi-L-Fatih Society of Nigeria (NASFAT) Agency for Zakat and Sadaqat (NAZAS), a non-governmental organisation established three years ago to empower the vulnerable in the society, recently gave out N10 million worth of gift items and cash donations to 64 beneficiaries. In this interview, chairman, Finance and General Purpose of the agency, Alhaji Shamsudeen Afunku, speaks about the agency and its efforts at touching lives. Excerpts
Daily Trust: Why is NAZAS concerned about zakat disbursement?
Alhaji Shamsudeen Afunku: NAZAS was incorporated in 2014 under the CAC guarantorship. Its objective is to collect and distribute Zakat and Sadaqat for the benefit of the masses.
The establishment of NAZAS was borne out of the high level of poverty among the masses. I was secretary of NASFAT 10 years ago and before NAZAS was established three years ago, we have been reaching out as a committee but realized that it was not effective.
DT: How does NAZAS get funding, selection of beneficiaries and monitoring of funds disbursed to ensure the money is wisely spent?
Afunku: In Islam, we don’t allow our left hand to know what our right hand is doing. The donors are kindhearted Nigerians from all walks of life. It involves Muslims in Lagos and across the country, and many are not necessarily NASFAT members. We have captains of industry and others who have donated generously towards this laudable course since inception.
For the beneficiaries, initially we used to advertise on the radio to tell them where they can obtain the application form. Again, we have a technical committee that screens the beneficiaries and select those whose cases are genuine and need urgent intervention. When the money is given to them, we check on them occasionally. In fact, we started evaluation-working group to visit these beneficiaries to ensure that the funds are judiciously used.
DT: How often does the agency support the vulnerable in the society?
Afunku: At the commencement of the programme in 2014, the agency doled out over N36m on empowerment programme while in June 2016 during Ramadan, it gave out N6m. The recent one, which took place on September 24 at Zone 2 in Ipaja, recorded 64 beneficiaries.
Last October, the organization also carried out its third intervention empowerment programme where over N8m worth of items which include industrial machines, sewing machines, wiping machine, deep freezers and cash donations were given out according to the needs of individuals.
Presently, over 50 students are on regular annual scholarship. The agency’s benevolent act is not limited to individuals alone. 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 Islamic Medical Association of Nigeria (IMAN) in providing free medical services to the downtrodden in underserved locations across Lagos State. 
DT: What new project is NAZAS working on currently?
Afunku: The agency is currently partnering Muharram Sisters, a group of Muslim women and other non-governmental organisations to set up vocational facilities and welfare schemes for inmates in Ikoyi Prisons. Their impact is already being felt because the group provided meals and training equipment for the inmates during the last Ramadan.
DT: Are there plans to reach out to other areas?
Afunku: Well, it has always been a Lagos affair but we are planning to expand. A pilot scheme has kicked off in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and we intend to go to Abuja as well because we have our members scattered across the country.
DT: Recently, NAZAS broke new grounds with its zoning system. What is it all about?
Afunku: On Sunday September 24th, NAZAS had a disbursement programme at NASFAT Ipaja branch where items and cash were distributed to 64 beneficiaries comprising 36 female and 28 male, including four Hausas and two Igbos. Our activities before now had always been at the headquarters in Alausa, Ikeja. Now, it has been divided into Zone 1 and 2 Ipaja; and where we had the programme falls under Zone 2. The motive is to showcase NASFAT and its activities to our members in this zone.
DT: It’s been three years; how would you rate the success of this initiative?
Afunku: It has been fantastic. When you see the beneficiaries in a joyous mood, the feeling is fulfilling. These people have lost hope but get their lives rekindled through NAZAS’ benevolent gesture. So far, we have spent over N100m in the last three years on empowerment and scholarships. As you know, scholarships don’t end in a year; it takes four years.
Now, we have Hausas and Ibos among the beneficiaries. We have been very successful but we can still do more because there are many people out there who need help. The religion teaches us to be kind to fellow human beings irrespective of their background.


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