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By Ibrahim Alusine Kamara (Kamalo)
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims, who attach great reverence to it when it comes once annually.
Muslims keep this month holy through increased worship of Allah (God) characterized by fasting from dawn till sunset amid abundant prayers, reading of the Holy Quran, offering duas, supplications, and doing good deeds, among other virtues, including kindness and generosity.
Ramadan is especially revered by Muslims because it is one of the five pillars of their Islamic Religion. This month has also been proven to be a moment when Muslims purify themselves with virtuous deeds for Allah’s pleasure, rewards, and blessings. Therefore, every Muslim is expected to capitalize on the burgeoning advantages of this month and do good deeds. The rich are especially called to the help of the poor and needy to ameliorate their suffering.
It should be noted that in most Muslim-dominated countries, rich people can be seen crisscrossing their communities to offer what the poor and needy could use to break their fast in the evening (Iftar), as well as for their meal at dawn (Suhr) known in our local parlance as ‘Sokoli”. State authorities would also be helter-skelter, providing for their poor and vulnerable Muslim communities during every coming Ramadan.
In Sierra Leone, however, the holy month of Ramadan has always been the period when traders become too desperate to profiteer rather than show mercy for the poor fast keepers. Already, the prices of all essential commodities – food items and nonfood items – have skyrocketed, thus turning a period of earning blessings from Allah into one for exploiting the poor for their high demand of goods while honouring the obligation of their faith!
The rich are not doing anything substantial to help alleviate the situation, not to talk about government authorities who would pretend it’s not their business, not even doing something at least to effectuate price control mechanisms. As a result, Ramadan has always come along with very difficult times for the poor, needy, and extremely vulnerable Muslims in Sierra Leone, but this year, 2024 is hell for the majority of households, coming in the wake of an unprecedented dire economic situation in the country. Non-Muslims are equally affected by the trend caused by unscrupulous and heartless merchants.
Before the advent of Ramadan, Sierra Leone was already steeped in an uncontrollable inflationary trend leading to a spiraling cost of living. Now, the prices of essential goods and services have hit the skies more than ever, adding more insult to living injury.
While Sierra Leoneans are grappling with the woes of the excruciating social situation in the holy month, the entire city is being pitched in protracted power outages, further sending those earning their living out of trading cold sachet water and cold drinks at bay. Not only that but it is hell let loose as excessive heat overwhelms the atmosphere and fast keepers are most vulnerable as the means to use electric fans and air conditioners to cushion the anomaly is not there. Also, refrigerators could not be used to preserve perishable foodstuffs bought out of people’s meager resources from decaying.

Meanwhile, some Muslim fasters working in public offices say their situation is being exacerbated by the government’s failure to timely pay them their salaries due to bankruptcy. But what is said to be more hell to soon come is the proposed tollgate tariffs that are to be implemented at any time, coming as a result of Parliament allegedly betraying the confidence of the people.

Reliable sources have it that during a consultative meeting with the Parliamentary Committee on Works and Public Assets on Thursday, the 14th of March 2024, at the Speaker’s Conference Room in the Parliament Building on Tower Hill in Freetown, the President of the Sierra Leone Drivers’ Union, Alpha Amadu Bah, called for the Management of China Railway Seventh Group (CRSG) to reduce the tollgate tariff of category 5 from 700 to 500 New Leones.

Mr. Bah is quoted as saying that his Union is not opposed to increment for other categories, but emphasised the reduction of tariff on Category 5, noting that since the introduction of the toll, the tariff for all categories remains unchanged.

The sources reveal, however, that other than squashing the proposal to increase the tollgate tariffs, lawmakers have allegedly given CRSG the green light to go ahead with the implementation of its proposed tariffs, coming following Bio’s latest visit to China, and CRSG’s alleged lobbying power with the MPs.

If this is true, it is speculated that before the month of Ramadan ends, Sierra Leoneans would likely be plunged into a calamity of price hikes and eventual starvation. This is because the astronomical increase in tollgate tariffs will inevitably propel an exponential hike in prices of all transported goods which will worsen the social plight of the people.

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