Following the rising cases of Coronavirus in the country, Lagos state government has announced the ban on large religious gatherings, effective immediately.
The decision was contained in a communiqué signed at the end of an emergency meeting between the state government and religious leaders in the state Wednesday.
The ban which was tagged “suspension” will be for an initial four weeks, according to the communiqué which was read by the state’s Commissioner for Home Affairs, Mr. Olanrewaju Anofiu Elegushi, at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, Ikeja.
Elegushi read the directive on behalf of Nigeria Inter Religious Council (NIRC), Lagos chapter after extensive debate with the representatives of leaders from both Christian and Islamic organizations.
The meeting which lasted for hours was attended by the Grand Chief Imam of Lagos, Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Nolla, and the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos chapter, Apostle Alexander Bamgbola.
To ensure full implementation, a 15-man committee co-chaired by the Commissioner and Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mrs Adebunmi Adekanye, was set up.
While reading out the communique, Elegushi said, “It is better to offend people than to kill,” saying fifty persons are manageable for the religious leaders to control in mosques and churches.
“We hereby agree we should suspend all religious congregations that are over 50 within the state for four weeks. It is easy to establish contacts of about fifty people. To achieve this, a committee should be set up to monitor and report on daily basis.
“While the constitution allows for freedom of association and worship, we are of the opinion that we should exercise our rights with extreme caution so as to avoid contracting and spreading this disease.
“We hereby appeal to you to please pay close attention to people coming into our places of worship, anyone found showing symptoms of this disease should immediately be reported to the appropriate authorities.
“We should put in place measures that will ensure cleanliness of our environment bearing in mind that, cleanliness is next to Godliness.
“Aside our normal ablutions, our worshippers should be encouraged to make use of hand sanitizers, avoid bodily contacts as much as possible and ensure safety measures in and around their places of abode.
The government and the religious leaders agreed that the ban will apply to congregation of over 50 persons.
Before the meeting, Mr. Elegushi had briefed newsmen on the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the meeting with the religious leaders was to “discuss a burning issue that has suddenly crept into our country Nigeria and by extension, our dear state, Lagos.
“You will recall that about two weeks ago, we called a meeting where a similar discussion and sensitisation on the Corona Virus (COVlD-19) was done, at that meeting experts in the medical field and those handling the Coronavirus issue in the state were on ground to educate us on this pandemic disease.
“As a responsible and responsive government, it behoves on us to bring our Religious Leaders up to speed on the unwanted disease that is subtly creeping into the state, the Coronavirus.
“A stitch in time saves nine as the saying goes and you will all agree with me that, we must nip the spread in the bud before it becomes endemic in our state. This disease is not from here and we have to keep it at bay before it wrecks havoc in our state. We cannot afford to treat it with kids’ glove as the lives of Lagosians are sacrosanct.”
“Few days ago, another case was discovered of a woman who came in from the UK and reports we are having says that she was at a conference where the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister attended. The fact of the matter is that, this disease can be simply contacted and spread through contact with infected persons. Now the question is, how do we know who is infected amongst our numerous congregation who has come to worship.
“While the constitution allows for freedom of association and worship, we are of the opinion that we should exercise our rights with extreme caution so as to avoid contacting and spreading of this disease.
“Mr Governor has directed that we should call this meeting with you in order to drive home the point that, this disease is real and it can only be avoided or prevented if we educate our worshippers on the dos and don’ts of the Coronavirus.
“We hereby appeal to you to please pay close attention to people coming into our places of worship, anyone found showing symptons of this disease should immediately be isolated and reported to the appropriate authorities,” he stated.