Covid-19: Nigerian states relax ban on religious gatherings as Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-fitr

In Kano state, muslim worshippers on Friday trooped to mosques in masks for weekly prayers while security guards administered hand sanitiser at the entrance.

As Muslims across the globe mark the end of the Ramadan fasting with the Eid-ul-Fitr celebration,some governors in Northern Nigeria have relaxed restrictions on large religious gatherings, meant to contain the spread of COVID-19, to enable their citizens congregate at Eid praying grounds and commemorate religious rites as they celebrate the festival this weekend.

The action runs contrary to guidelines by the country’s presidential taskforce on COVID-19 which insists on social distancing as the ban on religious gathering is still on considering the country’s latest figures of 7,261 cases of the Coronavirus with 221 deaths at the last count.

“Muslims should, therefore, act according to the established protocol in their various communities and locations in Nigeria during the forthcoming Eid-ul-Fitr”, President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, declared.

“In places where restrictions have been lifted from congregational prayers, Muslims should observe their Eid prayers while still taking necessary safety measures regarding personal hygiene, facial masks, and social distancing”, Sultan Abubakar III, the spiritual leader of Nigerian Muslims said.

In the country’s capital, Abuja, the government met with leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the League of Imams to delibrate on the relaxation of the ban on religious gatherings. 

Abuja city Minister, Muhammad Bello concluded that “all actions on the re-opening of the society is hinged on the advice of medical experts who at the moment do not support it”. He said until a contrary advice is given, the Federal Capital Territory remains under lockdown.

Bello said “a team consisting of representatives of the religious organisations and their leadership, as well as the FCT has been constituted to  gradually look at what the modalities and protocols of operating places of worship will be  when COVID-19 lockdown in the FCT is relaxed”.

Nigerian Police Spokesperson, Frank Mba reminded citizens “that the COVID-19 prevention regulation orders including the inter-state movement restriction orders, national curfew, prohibition of mass socio-religious gatherings by the Federal Government in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos, Ogun, and Kano States and restriction orders by governments in some states of the Federation, are still in force”.

In Kano state, muslim worshippers on Friday trooped to mosques with face masks for weekly prayers while security guards administered hand sanitisers at the entrances.

Around 3,000 people attended the prayers at the Kano central mosque but the service was less than an hour long. They sat shoulder-to-shoulder as they listened to a short sermon by cleric AbdulHadi Ibrahim.

“We thank God that we are here to observe the Friday prayers which we ardently hope signals the stabilisation of the coronavirus pandemic,” Ibrahim said.

Social distancing was not observed outside the mosque as well. While all the worshippers inside the mosque wore masks, many of those outside, including children, did not.

“We are doing all we can to make everyone safe but our capacity is limited as the face masks cannot go round,” a local chief at the mosque, told newsmen.

“Looking at the faces of worshippers, it is evident everyone is happy that though the prayer has not held for some weeks, it has now been conducted today,” worshipper Aminu Garba said.

Kano is one of the states planning to lift the partial lockdown. It has the second largest Covid-19 infections in Nigeria with 883 cases and 36 deaths.

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