GOVERNOR Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has bowed to pressure and cancelled plans to suspend the coronavirus lockdown tomorrow that would have enabled churches to hold Easter Monday services amid concerns that it would lead to the spread of the virus.
Earlier this week, Governor Akeredolu announced that his government would be relaxing its restrictions on social distancing allowing Christians to attend church services during the Easter period. His decision created panic across the country amid criticism that the move could set a dangerous precedent that could open the floodgates for a nationwide defiance of the lockdown order.
Under the terms of an agreement Governor Akeredolu reached with Christian Association of Nigeria (Can) leader in Ondo State, there would be limited access to church tomorrow Easter Sunday. It has been agreed that 20 people would be allowed be in a small church building, 50 in a medium size church, while big ones and cathedrals must maintain three congregants on a pew.
Can leaders and the Ondo State government also agreed that services would hold between 7am and 12 noon only during the Easter Sunday service on the 12th of April, 2020. Donald Ojogo, the Ondo State information commissioner, said, however, that the relaxation was just for Easter Sunday and would be back in force after the service.
With the move leading to several other states also relaxing their bans, the move by Governor Akeredolu has been widely criticised by health officials. They say it could destroy all the hard work they have put in to contain the virus so far and in addition, members of other religious faiths will start making similar demands.
Under pressure from the security agencies and health officials, Governor Akeredolu has had to back down and rescind his decision. This afternoon, he tweeted a message on his official handle to say that the state government had held a meeting with Can officials where it was decided to reverse the decision.
Governor Akeredolu said: “I’ve heard you all and your concerns on the need to lock down Ondo. I have just concluded a meeting with Can and we have resolved that the services will not hold again.
“Thanks for your concerns. Stay blessed and Happy Easter to all.”
Ondo State currently only has one case of coronavirus after a member of the armed forces tested positive for the virus. He has since been placed in isolation but there are fears that allowing church services could lead to the further spread of the virus across the state.