SEVERAL Nigerian states have relaxed their coronavirus lockdown rules in the run-up to Easter as part of a programme to allow residents engage in some shopping and participate in religious worship to mark the festivities.
Despite warnings from the World Health Organisation that Africa could become the epicentre of the global pandemic, several Nigerian states are defying the lockdown, especially with regards to religious congregations. Katsina State has allowed Friday Jumat prayers today for its Muslims, while Ondo State has also lifted restrictions, allowing its residents to attend Easter Sunday church services.
Yesterday, Imo, Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Abia and Kogi states all relaxed their shutdown measures too, to the chagrin of the exasperate inspector-general of police, Mohammed Adamu, who had directed his men to enforce the restrictions during the Easter celebrations. While felicitating with Christians as they mark Easter, Mr Adamu had urged worshippers to observe prayers and worship programmes in their homes.
However, in Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma said residents were free to shop today for Easter. Information commissioner Declan Emelumba, said that food markets and vending supermarkets would be allowed to open from 6 am to 6pm today.
In neighbouring Ebonyi State, the government granted a partial restoration of religious activities in the state. The government relaxed the ban on burials by giving those in the state between April 9 and 20 to bury their dead loved ones.
Moreso, the state government has allowed Christians and Muslins to attend religious services once a week. Information commissioner Uchenna Orji, said worshippers are expected to attend their normal service only on Sunday for Christians and Friday for Muslims with effect from April 12, 2020.
Mr Orji said: “Every worshipper must wear a face mask, including handkerchief or head tie. The service centre must be provided with hand sanitizers and running water for the washing of hands and there shall be no religious gatherings other than on Sundays.”
Also, the Abia State government announced that it will allow two-day intra-state movement. Chris Ezem, the secretary to the state government said residents were free to move about on Good Friday and Easter Sunday to enable them to shop and perform other religious activities in commemoration of Easter.
In Rivers State, the government has also temporarily relaxed restrictions. Governor Nyesom Wike announced that under the new regime, the Muslim community is permitted to observe its jumaat prayers today, while Christians can hold Easter services on Sunday.
He added: “For the avoidance of doubt, the relaxation on mass religious gathering is limited only to the afore-mentioned respective dates.”
Bayelsa State government has also relaxed its lockdown measures for Easter celebrations. Governor Duoye Diri’s acting chief press secretary Daniel Alabrah, said the measure was specific to church services during the Easter festivities.
He said churches with large congregation would be permitted to have 50 persons during services, while 20 worshippers would be allowed for smaller churches. Also, the Bayelsa State government has lifted the ban on movement during Easter, as has the Akwa Ibom State government.
Kogi State’s Governor Yahaya Bello has also lifted the ban on religious grounds. Kingsley Fanwo, the Kogi State information commissioner, said the move was to allow religious bodies to have their normal worship.