COVID-19: We can’t open worship houses now, FCT Minister tells Religious Leaders

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The Federal Capital Territory is not exempted as lockdown also affected the religious communities in the state, a lot of debates as to why the government shouldn’t have included religious worships in the lockdown restrictions lingers for long.

Though the FCT Minister, did this as directed by the Federal Government and also acted based on direction by the World Health Organization in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Mallam Mohammed Bello the Honourable Minister of Federal Capital Territory, FCT, told religious leaders in the FCT that worship houses cannot be reopened now.

The Honourable Minister disclosed this information in a meeting between the representatives of the FCT Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the FCT League of Imams Initiative

The Minister in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Anthony Ogunleye noted that the FCT is guided by advice from medical experts and guidelines from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 which had directed that all measures approved two weeks earlier be extended for another two weeks, including the restriction on religious gatherings.

He said; “based on the guidance of the medical experts and consultations with the highest authority, the Presidential Task Force gave a decision and communication on the fact that all the measures approved two weeks ago be extended for another period of time to enable organizations, individuals and all of us plan for a gradual opening up of the society”

And according to the Honourable Minister of FCT, Malam Mohammed Bello, the meeting acknowledged that the primary concern of all the leaders and public officials was to save lives and this involves monitoring very closely reports from the health authorities which indicate that after 9 weeks of the pandemic an attempt to curtail its spread not much has changed.”

The FCT Minister further explained that all actions on the re-opening of the society is hinged on the advice of medical experts who at the moment do not support the reopening. “In the light of this”, the Minister continued, “The leaders of the religious organizations have agreed to work towards the eventual opening up of worship places at a time to be determined by the Presidential Task Force, based on medical advice”

In the interim, however, Malam Bello, explained that a team consisting of representatives of the religious organizations and their leadership, as well as the FCT, has been constituted to gradually look at what the modalities and protocols of operating places of worship will be when COVID-19 lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT is relaxed.

He said such modalities were not new considering that certain protocols were put in place at the height of insecurity in the country when religious places were the targets for terrorists.

“Therefore, certain protocols such as the use of face masks, compulsory hand washing and social distancing will have to be adhered to when places of worship eventually re-open the Minister said.

“This, he continued, will also include the identification and placement of modalities for the decontamination of all places of worship adding that these protocols are necessary so that when eventually are re-opened they will be done with minimal risks to the worshippers.

“The religious leaders in their comments appreciated the efforts of the FCT Administration in the fight against COVID-19 especially in the distribution of palliatives and the meeting agreed that whatever palliatives were available following the extension of the lockdown will also be re-distributed through the organs and structures of the religious organizations.

“The meeting was called at the behest of the leaders who requested for the re-opening of places of worship in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, following pressures from their followers.

“Also, at the meeting were the FCT Minister of State, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, the Permanent Secretary of the FCTA, Sir. Chnyeaka Ohaa, the Acting Secretary of the Health and Human Services Secretariat, Dr. mohammed Kawu and other leaders of the Muslim and Christian Communities in the FCT”, the statement added.

So, it is advisable that we all be more patient and wait a little more, for a clearer signal before we return to our various religious activities.

By: Ayooluwa Joshua

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