An Islamic human rights group, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has called on the Federal Government (FG) to borrow a leaf from the just concluded 2021 Salah holiday which marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
According to the group in a statement on Saturday by its director, Ishaq Akintola, “this last holiday taught us a lesson in the prudent management of national holidays as Nigerian Muslims were only able to enjoy one out of the two days declared as holidays”.
MURIC is therefore advocating reduction in the number of days declared as holidays. The human rights organisation is also seeking the “understanding of religious groups who are in the habit of engaging in rivalry over the number of days declared as holidays”.
“The last Id al-Fitr holiday has taught us a lesson in careful planning and prudent management of holidays. This came about because although FG actually declared two days, Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th, 2021 as holidays having speculated that Wednesday would be the Salah day, Ramadan did not end on Tuesday. It ended on Wednesday. As a result of this, Thursday became Salah day. This rendered the holiday declared on Wednesday superfluous, redundant and extraneous.
“The Muslims ended up enjoying only one day which was the second day (Thursday, 13th May, 2021). But did heaven fall? No, it didn’t. Neither did the Muslims register any official complaint because they know that FG had satisfied all righteousness by declaring two days for them.
“But that may not be the issue. MURIC is calling the nation’s attention to the lessons inherent in this incident. First, any religious group which falls victim of this kind of natural and inadvertent holiday shortfall in future should learn to show tolerance and understanding instead of threatening hell and brimstone. Secondly, this incident has taught us that a single day may sometimes be enough as holiday for our religious festivals.
“It is hightime we realised that every single holiday comes with a cost. Unfortunately we do not seem to know this because we are a fun-loving, holiday-grabbing and merry-making people. Unfortunately we do not count the cost, and that is where we missed it as a nation.
“This country enjoys about fifteen (15) holidays annually and loses about N9.74 billion per annum to public holidays. This humongous amount can provide jobs for thousands of unemployed Nigerians. It can give us a well-equipped teaching hospital or build another macadamised dual carriageway in any part of the country.
“There appears to be a symbiotic relationship between our love for holidays and our culture of waste. You cannot separate time from productivity. Time is money and productivity translates to Gross Domestic Products (GDP). This is the time to choose between laziness and productivity. The fascinating products of the West which we are enjoying today were results of hardwork and sacrifice on national scale. Our superfluous holidays are simply consuming the future of coming generations.
“It is high time we took a radical look at this angle considering the poor and fragile nature of our economy. With a 0.11 GDP growth rate and $2,386.90 (2019) per capita income, it is very doubtful if we can afford the luxury of frivolous holiday declarations and reveling in the pay-day euphoria of the prodigal son.
“We must tighten our belts. Holiday matters should be part of restructuring discussions. We can agree on reduction from two to one day only for religious holidays so long as they are fairly and equitably distributed. Christmas and the big Salah (Id al-Kabir) alone should attract two days each. All others should be restricted to one day each while religious festivals that fall on weekends should attract no extra day or days.
“The economic losses arising from our numerous holidays forced the adoption of this policy in the days of late General Sanni Abacha (rtd) and it worked. Only Allah knows why we relapsed again. The National Bureau of Statistics should make public the losses we run per day of every vacation observed in this country. Such information should be in the print, electronic and social media the day after every holiday. Perhaps this will enable us to know the value of each vacation and alert Nigerians to the danger of having too many holidays.
“This advocacy does not amount to double-speak. While it is true that we have been calling for the declaration of 1st Muharram (the first day of the Hijrah or Islamic new year) as a public holiday in parity with January 1st, we believe that our request can still be accommodated with equity and fairness as government’s focus.”