Twenty-nine bodies of young firewood hawkers have been buried in Gidan Magana Village, Shagari Local Government Area of Sokoto State.
The hawkers died on Wednesday when their boat capsized on Shagari River on their way to fetch firewood in Ela bush.
The funeral prayer was led by Imam Musa Shagari and was attended by the State’s Deputy Governor, Alhaji Manniru Dan’iya.
Others included the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Umar Sa’idum, and the member representing Shagari Local Government in the state House of Assembly, Alhaji Maidawa Kajiji.
Shortly after they were buried, Governor Aminu Tambuwal arrived in the village from Abuja to commiserate with the bereaved families.
In his address, Tamabuwal condoled with them and confirmed that 29 people died while six survived the unfortunate incident.
The Village Head, Alhaji Auwalu Magaji, told the gathering that the 23 females, mostly young girls, and six men, were on their way to fetch firewood they would sell.
Magaji said fetching firewood was a major business engaged in by the youth in the area and they used canoe to cross the Shagari River in their search for the fuel.
He said the victims were among the second batch of firewood hawkers who left the village to the bush around 10am on Wednesday after first batch had been crossed and dropped off in Ela bush.
Malam Ali Muhammad, father of one of the deceased, 12-year-old Rufaida, confirmed that she left in the morning to the Ela bush.
Muhammad said: “I searched for her corpse and saw it among others.
“Rufaida has not been attending formal school as there is no primary school in the village.
“However, she was attending religious study classes along with other children in the evening.”
A resident, Muhammad Danmaimota, described the incident as unfortunate and attributed it to the poverty that ravaged the area.
Danmaimota said the village lacked functional school, clinic, electricity and potable water, a situation that forced residents to engage in firewood business.
According to him, young girls before marriage mostly engage in hawking firewood for subsistence and commercial purposes.
He said that boys also joined in the business because of the absence of schools.
Danmaimota said Gidan Magana Village roads were inaccessible, especially when it rained, and residents faced hardships due to the lack of social amenities.
He said that residents paid a fare of N50 to cross the river in a boat.
Danmaimota said though the firewood fetching business was dangerous, the people had no other option.
A News Agency of Nigeria Correspondent, who was in village, reports that the incident threw the residents into deep mourning.
Residents of neighbouring villages besieged Gidan Magana Village to sympathise with them.
NAN recalls that a similar incident occurred in 2021 when 13 people died in nearby Ganga Village in the same Shagari LGA while crossing the same river to attend a naming ceremony.