ABUJA - The floods that ravaged Nigeria's Muslim-majority north, which have caused prices of livestock to shot up, and fears of attacks by the militant Boko Haram have spoiled the joy of `Eid Al-Adha, one of two major Muslim festivals, in the west African country.
"We used to buy three rams in our family, Sharafudeen Balogun, 35, told OnIslam.net.
But this year we bought just two because of the high cost.
Balogun recalled that he bought a big ram last year at N33,000 (around $200).
But this year a ram of that size costs between N45,000 and N50,000."
Dealers blame the high prices of livestock for sacrifice in `Eid Al-Adha to the floods that ravaged northern Nigeria in recent months.
"The shortage of livestock can be blamed on the excessive flooding which killed millions of our animals and even hindered efforts to breed new ones," Alhaji Sumaila Maigari told OnIslam.net at a popular Agege ram market in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria.
"So the few we were able to buy from dealers are very expensive and that is why the cost of animals are on the high side this year. We sell what we buy."
Hassan Ibidapo, another ram seller in Ilorin in Nigeria's Northcentral, corroborated Maigari's story.
He added that the Boko Haram menace also contributed to the crisis because "increasingly people are afraid to travel to the North."
Ibidapo said he knew people who used to travel to the North to buy animals for Udhiyah but were afraid to go this year because of the Boko Haram crisis.
`Eid Al-Adha, or "Feast of Sacrifice, is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations, together with `Eid Al-Fitr.
After special prayers to mark the day, Muslims offer unhiyah, a ritual that reminds of the great act of sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma`eel were willing to make for the sake of God
Festivities and merriment then start with visits to the homes of friends and relatives.
Other Nigerians, however, blame the politicians and the poor economy for the soaring prices of livestock.
"The Naira traded at between 145/150 to a US dollar last year, but the naira now fair worse against the dollar, Hajia Bilkees Onitiri, 40, a businesswoman who has been offering Udhiyah since she was 30, told OnIslam.net.
This does have effect on the price of everything including ram.
Estimates show that poverty is rising in Nigeria, Africa's second largest economy, despite economic growth.
Data show that 60.9 percent of Nigeria's 130 million population live in absolute poverty in 2010, up from only 54.7 percent in 2004.
"But you can also blame the high cost of ram and other Udhiyah animals on the habit of our politicians who buy these animals in large quantity and hoard them ahead the `Eid celebration," said Onitiri.
Nigeria, one of the world's most religiously committed nations, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.
Muslims and Christians, who constitute 55 and 40 percent of Nigeria's 140 million population respectively, have lived in peace for the most part.But ethnic and religious tensions have bubbled for years, fuelled by decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands with migrants and settlers from the Hausa-speaking Muslim north.