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

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - Front Page - From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu, Nkechi Onyedika- Ugoeze, Abuja, Mur­tala Ade­wale, Kano, Emma Ande, Yola, Rauf Oye­wole, Bauchi and Abel Abo­gonye, Lafia

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.

Read the re­main­der of this story on www. guardian. ng

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.

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