Desmond Mgboh (Kano), Timothy Olanrewaju (Maiduguri) and Abdul Hassan (Zaria)
An unfriendly blaze of harmattan is sweeping across the North, shutting out the sky with a dusty haze. It is cold, it is harsh and it is forcing residents to stay indoors. Although the cold weather is not new to the North, this year is reputed as one of the coldest in recent times.
Arriving in November last year, it has left the lips of many shivering and has changed the lifestyles of the people in the region in many ways. At mid-day, average temperatures in many states such as Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Gombe, Kaduna, Borno, Plateau and Kaduna, could climb up to as high as 180C, with real feel at 150C. But as the day departs, temperatures begin to drop until it is near-frozen, according to experts.
Reports rated the severe cold that enveloped Kano metroplolis as one of the coldest in recent history. Acknowledging this fact, accuweather.com, reported that on Thursday, January 2, 2020, temperature dropped in Kano metropolis to as low as 70C, colder than London at 90C on the same night.
This condition has not changed ever since, resulting that most parts of state, including its rural communities have been very cold and discomforting the residents. Wearing off from nights that are also cold, daytime comes with a chilly breeze that bites the skin like the edge of a blade.
Everywhere is cold and dusty. From the walls of the structure, the floor of the building, the foot of the earth, the cars on the street, the public transport and even the mutually shared handshakes, which is supposed to be warm, none is spared.
This new reality has affected the lifestyles of the people. One of the common sights in the metropolis is to behold a set of people, especially water vendors and night guards, wrapped up in thick clothes and cardigans up to their heads. To many, the heavy Babariga traditional wear is not enough anymore to wade off the cold.
As a matter of tradition, they gather in cycles, around a flame of fire, stoked by firewood, warming up their hands and legs while chatting over anything that fleets through their minds.
The tri-cyclists, who provide easy and fairly cheap transport services to the members of the public, are not finding it funny. Because a half of their courier vehicle is open to the air, the breeze that flung back at them as they drive only but doubles the quality of the cold that hits them insistently.
Ahmed Abdullahi works around Sabon-Garri Market. He said not all of his colleagues are working or are on the road due to the cold: “As they suffer the pains of the cold, so do their passengers, who are worse off because they are coming out from inside their houses.”
Market demand for cold bottled or sachet water, minerals and alcoholic drinks has slipped in the recent times as less and less number of people take to anything cold to avoid the health implications of the habit.
Many residents have been hospitalised of late for cold said a pharmacist working at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano. He indicated that many shops have been stocked with drugs that deal with cold related-diseases as these are the common problems of the times:
“While the warm season is typically characterised by sicknesses such as malaria and typhoid, the cold season could lead to cough and catarr. The elderly and the young ones are often the most vulnerable to the challenges.”
Daily Sun observed a splash of hazy winds around the city of Zaria, an ancient, but cosmopolitan town located some kilometres away from the capital of Kaduna State.
In the past four days, according to residents, the cold has been severe and has obstructed businesses and slowed down a number of activities that were typical of the bubbling city.
Cashing in on the holidays, many families have stayed indoors, making occasional presence in the public to address exigencies such as going to the market to restock their kitchens or stopping by in the offices to mark registers.
Commercial motorcyclists are fewer on the roads just as commercial bus drivers, especially those plying the Kaduna-Abuja route and those driving to Kano and back, have been experiencing delays in their operation due to the cold.
They said they spend more time loading their vehicles and looking for passengers than they were used to do in the past. Alhaji Inusa Musa, a bus driver, confessed that the weather has prevented passengers from coming out very early as they were used to: “I usually leave Zaria for Abuja between 6:30am and 7:00am everyday. But as you can see, it is 10:00am and only a few passengers are in the bus.”
Hawkers in the two major markets of the town, Sabon-Garri and Tudun Wada, are very cautious in their transactions. They bring a measured quantity of goods to the markets and strive to sell them all before the end of each day as the market size has equally dropped in the last few days.
The weather situation affected air traffic in the town. Mallam Ibrahim Umar, a staff of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, explained: “The heavy hazy weather may affect the training of flying student pilots for now. Though we are just returning from the New Year and Christmas break. I doubt if we would embark on anything meaningful in the light of the weather.”
Madam Agnes Yohana who fries yam at the Gate of Saint Luke’s Hospital, Wusasa, Zaria, admitted that this weather is strange to her: “I cannot remember the year that I last witnessed this sort of weather. That is again the wonders of God. We pray to see it through.”
It is against this background that the Environmental Health Department of Zaria Local Government issued an advisory to residents to cover their noses and mouths against the flying dust. It said the precautions could help one against contracting some of the diseases associated with this weather.
For a week now, the atmosphere in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State and most parts of the state, has remained hugely dusty and dry.
The whole landscape is cold, dry, dusty and very inconveniencing to residents of the North East states who are already over burdened by the unbroken spree of blood by the insurgents in the region.
Most residents of Maiduguri told Daily Sun that they started experiencing the wintry weather early October. Abdullahi Yusuf, a resident, admitted that the arrival of the harmattan was initially welcomed by many as a relief to the intense heat of the year: “We enjoy our sleep during harmattan and there are less mosquitoes unlike during the rainy season.”
Some women said the harmattan period often makes their husbands stay more at home than other seasons of the year. One of the women told Daily Sun on condition of anonymity: “Our men here mostly don’t stay at home with their wives or families even outside office hours. They prefer to hang out and chat with their male friends outside. But the cold weather often makes them to return home shortly after Magrib (Muslim evening) prayers.”
She said some men now return home earlier than the 6pm as the evening weather gradually becomes chilly. He added that many women are secretly happy with the cold and are preparing for it every other evening. Asked what type of preparation is required at this time, she responded:
“We get more charcoal to keep the house warm and more incense to scent the rooms. It is a usual thing for most women here.” She said some woman often purchase new set of blankets, harmattan clothes and foot wears to ensure family members stayed warm. She said the season comes with additional costs as they “spend more on buying tea, local seasoning and condiments, charcoal, kerosene or gas because the demand for use of warm water is higher during harmattan.”