Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
There was low turnout of congregation in many of the churches in Ado Ekiti metropolis, Ekiti State, yesterday as Christians began church services after the state government lifted ban placed on religious centres across the state.
The state Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, had in March 2020, suspended activities in churches and mosques to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though in some of the churches visited, all congregants used face masks while children below the age of 12 and elderly above 65 were not allowed into the church premises in compliance with the directive of the state government.
There were low congregations in some of the major churches like Saint Patrick Cathedral Church at Ijigbo; Christ Apostolic Church, Ogba Alaafia, Ijigbo; Christ Apostolic Church Mountain of Covenant, Poly Road; Cathedral Anglican Church at Okesa; Christ for All Nation’s Church at Ajowa area, among others.
The church programmes were substantially held between the hours of 10 a.m. and 12noon as directed by the government that no programme must be more than two hours and should be held once in a week.
In all the churches, bowl of water and hand sanitizers were stationed at the entrance for washing, while the temperatures of church members were being taken at the gate with infrared thermometers.
The presiding Pastor of the CAC, Mountain of Covenant on Poly road, Pastor Tope Fakiyesi, hinged the low turnout to the directive banning children from attending church services.
He said: “You know that children and the elderly have been banned from going to churches, so most of the parents would not want to leave their children at home and come to the churche.
“I want to appeal to the state government to look at this area. Again, most of the elderly people above 65 are ill and their children might not want to take the risk of abandoning them at home and go to church as well. These factors might have accounted for the low turnout.”
Before the reopening of churches, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had expressed reservations over stringent conditions given for the reopening of worshipping centres, saying it would only cause low turnout.
Speaking with journalists in Ado Ekiti, yesterday, the state CAN Chairman, Rev Fr. Peter Olowolafe, said the debarring of people below age 12 and those above 65 from coming to the church was too strict a condition that can guarantee smooth take off of church service.
“For now, we don’t have any particular reaction. The governor has spoken, therefore, all Christians in the state must abide by that. We are preparing to make sure that we reopen on that day so that Christians will continue to demonstrate to the state that we are disciplined people.
“We are trying as much as possible to abide with the conditions, but we are not pleased with all the conditions-like leaving the children and the people above 65 at home. It is risky leaving children at home. It is like telling the parents indirectly not to come to church.
“If the children do not come to the church, it means their parents will not come, that is the implication. Also, worshipping in a single service on Sunday isn’t ok, as there is nothing that stops us from having multiple services. Even in Lagos state which is the epicentre of the coronavirus in Nigeria, the governor has opened the church, and by Sunday, they can have multiple services. Therefore, in Ekiti State, having two hours service for people above 12 and below 65, to me, is not just enough,” he stated.
On what will be the next move of the Christian body, Olowolafe said: “We want to start and see how things work out so that we call for review after a close observation of the experience and the conditions.
“For now, we are not calling for any review or any meeting or writing any letter or rejoinder. We are not writing anything. We want to observe everything first and second weeks, and we believe by then, we will have good fact to make comparison with other states especially Lagos, which is the epicentre of the COVID-19 in Nigeria.”