By Olasunkanmi Akoni
As part of efforts to stop further spread of the ravaging Coronavirus Disease, COVID-19 pandemic, many Mosques in Lagos on Friday, failed to hold the weekly “Jumat ” prayer service, as worshippers stayed away, in total compliance with the state government’s directive for all religious houses to remain shut.
Lagos State Government had on Wednesday, placed a ban on religious and public gatherings of more than 50 people in the state for the period of four weeks, aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19.
When Vanguard went around the state to monitor the level of compliance by religious leaders, most of the Mosques visited were shut and deserted with worshippers nowhere to be found.
At Lagos State Secretariat Mosque, Alausa, Ikeja, the main gate was under lock and key, with a banner announcing the closure to worshippers.
The inscription on the banner read: “The management of this (L S.C.C. M & S.A.T, Mosque). In line with the state government’s directive on restrictions on religious gatherings in combating the spread of CORONA VIRUS, COVID-19. We hereby announced the suspension of all gathering of worshippers within the premises of the Mosque until further notice.”
The situation was the same at Egbeda Central Mosque, Ikorodu Central Mosque, Agege Central Mosque, Ikotun Central Mosque, where worshippers who turned our for prayers were turned back by management.
Some worshippers who talked to Vanguard on the development, Alhaji Taiwo Akinpelu, said they held the “Jumat” in their offices, while others gathered in a number of 10 people and prayed in their residences.
“It’s for the good and safety of all, the government meant well by banning congregation at this time, but we sincerely hope and pray that this soon becomes a thing of the past. God will definitely, heal our land.” Akinpelu prayed.
Recall, the state Commissioner for Home Affairs, Mr. Anofiu Elegushi, read out the directive on behalf of the state government and Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, NIRC, Lagos chapter after long hour debate with the representatives of leaders from both Christian and Islamic organizations, held in, Alausa, Ikeja.
The meeting was attended by the Grand Chief Imam of Lagos, Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Nolla and the Chairman of the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos chapter, Apostle Alexander Bamgbola, among others.
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 50 persons are manageable for the religious leaders to control in Mosques and Churches.’’
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He added, “We hereby agree we should suspend all religious congregation that is 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 a 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 contacting and spreading of 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.”