By Peter Duru – Makurdi
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state has signed an executive order to ensure the prosecution of anyone caught violating the safety measures put in place to safeguard the health and protection of Benue people from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also ordered an immediate reversal of the order reopening churches, mosques and markets in the state till further notice.
The government had last Thursday after a joint meeting of the State Executive Council and the Action Committee on COVID-19 ordered the reopening of worship centers with strict adherence or social distancing evens as it considered reopening schools in two weeks.
Announcing the reversal of the decision yesterday in Makurdi, Governor Ortom said, “we have reviewed the relax of lockdown we did last Thursday. Since then we heard the federal government advise us against the reopening of churches, mosques and public gatherings.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Jama’atu Nasir Islam have all given their backing to the federal government that it will be too early and premature for us to reopen the churches and mosques and to allow public gathering and to reopen market places.
“We are a component of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and appreciate the fact that the federal government is the custodian of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC and of course they are more informed than we are and we must subject ourselves to the decisions that are in accordance ith the laws of this land.
“We do not want to endanger our people and in the event of any challenge concerning this pandemic the point to call upon is the federal government. So we cannot kick against their advise.
“We have seen that the advise is genuine, our decision is premature and if we took a decision and we have this kind of genuine advise that is meant to support the health of our people we have no reason whatsoever to go ahead with the decision we took.
“So I appreciate Benue people, I appreciate the concern of the CAN Benue state chapter, the Muslim community that have been mounting pressure that churches, mosques, markets and others be reopened. But you cannot attend church service or mosque or even market when you are dead.
“On behalf of the State Executive Council I hereby announce a reversal of the lifting. We will work closely with the federal government to know when it is convenient to relax the lockdown, as for now we are back to where we were before last Thursday,” he added.