Eid- el- Fitri: Clerics, Doctors Worry Over Reopening Of Congregational Prayers
• Worshippers Shun Fintiri’s Directive On Large Gathering, Defy Social Distancing Order • COVID- 19 Briefing Put On Hold Until Wednesday
THepresidential Task Force ( PTF) on COVID- 19 has postponed till next week Wednesday, its daily press conference in which it updates Nigerians on latest developments in the country’s
response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal government had declared Monday, May 25 and Tuesday, May 26 as public holidays to enable Muslims observe the Eid- el- Fitri celebrations.
The postponement, which was communicated through a terse message from the Chief Press Secretary ( CPS) in
the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation ( SGF), Mr. Willie Bassey, read: “Important notice: In view of the Sallah celebrations, the briefing has been postponed to Wednesday next week.” And, as Muslims returned to routine worship, especially at the Central Mosque in Kano, scholars and medical experts have expressed concerns that the congregation was capable of wiping out successes recorded in the fight against the COVID- 19 pandemic in the state.
The Kano State Government on Monday eased the presidential restriction order for Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays for a period of four hours, while also lifting ban on congregation prayers, including Friday Jumat and Eid
el- Fitir prayers that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
It had directed that worshipers must follow set guidelines, including use of face masks, adhering to social distancing and washing their hands with soap at the entry points of mosques and churches, in accordance with Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control ( NCDC) protocols.
The seeming return to normal congregation at some mosques in the state is in clear disregard of the directive of the President General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs ( NSCIA), who is also the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, urging Muslim faithful to observe the Eid prayer at home alone or with family members only, to check the spread of the COVID- 19 pandemic.
Chairman, Council of Ulamas, Sheikh Ibrahim Khalil, and Chief Imam, Usman BinAnfan Central Mosque, Sheikh Mohammad Aliyu Yunus, cautioned against the seeming return to normalcy, which they believed could boomerang on the state’s fragile health facilities.
Khalid expressed concern that government did not take cognizance of the community spread of coronavirus before rushing to relax the lockdown and reopen the worship centres that could place Kano at risk.
The Islamic scholar said the governor should have been better informed to give priority to the health of the people, insisting that the decision would jeopardise the fight against COVID- 19 pandemic. On his part, Yunus said time was not ripe for the reopening of mosques for congregation prayers, expressing concern over the poor attitude of Kano residents in maintaining government orders.
Yunus insisted that despite the supply of face masks and hand sanitisers at the worship centres, compliance to the protocols may be difficult, noting: “We believed government should have consulted more widely and not through selected scholars. We believe it is not yet time to open the mosques for congregation prayers.
“Again, we are afraid that our people may not follow the protocols of social distancing, wearing of face mask and washing of hands and we cannot force people to do that.” A public health physician, Dr. Ibrahim Musa, however, posited that there would be no cause for alarm if only residents comply with the protocols.
Admitting that observing the protocols may be difficult for some segments of the society, he advocated more public awareness to convince the people on the reality of the virus, saying: “For me, if there is strict enforcement of these guidelines, there is no cause for alarm, but any attempt to ignore the rules could end in hundreds of people infected in the next two weeks. The state Commissioner for Information, Mallam Muhammad Garba, expressed satisfaction with the level of compliance to social distancing and use of face mask at Farm Centre Mosque, where he observed the Jumat prayers.
He explained that though the level of compliance was high among worshippers who observed prayers inside the mosque, some were observed to have discountenanced the order a distance away from the mosque.
He assured that government would continue to sensitise the public on the need to protect their health against the virus. At Alfruqan Mosque on Allu Avenue, Nassarawa, Farm Centre Mosque and Kano Central Mosque near the emir’s palace, there was moderate compliance, as majority of worshippers wore face masks. But there was disregard for social distancing protocol in places visited.
In Adamawa State, all mosques held normal Muslim prayers yesterday, against Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri’s directives of not more than 50 people for each gathering. The governor, in a state- wide broadcast, had warned that government would not tolerate any violation of the directives, pointing out that the decision was in the interest of the people.
However, when The Guardian visited some mosques in Yola, the state capital, they were full to capacity.
Four weeks after the Bauchi State government restricted social, commercial and religious gatherings in the state, Muslims yesterday performed congregational prayers in the state.
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Kano State Governor Umar Ganduje ( second left) flanked by his two sons and Chief of Staff Ali Makoda ( right) during Jumat Prayer at Government House, according to protocols established by the state government... yesterday.
Muslims observing Jumat prayer at Central Market, near Sheikh Dahiru Central Mosque, Bauchi, in disregard of social distancing ... yesterday.