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Covid-19: Nigerian states relax ban on religious gatherings as Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-fitr3 minutes read

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

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PHOTO: Muslim faithfuls worship during the Friday prayers at the National Mosque in Abuja, Nigeria, on March 20, 2020. Nigeria said on March 19, 2020, it would shut schools and limit religious meetings in its economic hub Lagos and capital Abuja. Kola Sulaimon / AFP

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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Bitter sweets: Madagascar minister fired over candy plan

Minister Rijasoa Andriamanana said last week she was ordering $2.2 million worth of sweets to go with the Covid-Organics concoction, which some experts have warned is useless against COVID-19.

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Madagascar MPs investigated for corruption.
President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar.

Madagascar’s education minister was sacked Thursday after announcing a plan to buy sweets for students to take the edge off the “bitter taste” of a herbal tea the president says is a coronavirus remedy.

Minister Rijasoa Andriamanana said last week she was ordering $2.2 million worth of sweets to go with the Covid-Organics concoction, which some experts have warned is useless against COVID-19.

She told the press that “a purchase of sweets and lollipops” had been made, with all students in the Indian Ocean island nation to receive three each.

She added that it was for the “bitter taste” of the drink, which President Andry Rajoelina has been promoting for export, saying it is the country’s “green gold” which will “change history”.

The potential benefits of Covid-Organics, have not been validated by any scientific study. 

That such expense was going to sweets in one of the world’s poorest country’s sparked outrage, fanned by the Malagasy press, and the order was cancelled.

The minister defended the plan, but it was not considered by the cabinet, which relieved her of her duties in a dry statement.

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Equatorial Guinea accuses WHO of inflating Covid-19 tally, sacks country representative

“We don’t have a problem with the WHO, we have a problem with the WHO’s representative in Malabo,” Prime Minister Pascual Obama Asue said in remarks broadcast on state television.

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World Health Organization signpost.

Equatorial Guinea has joined its Burundian counterpart in sacking the representative of the World Health Organization, accusing her of “falsifying” the country’s tally of coronavirus cases, a government statement said.

In a document dated May 26, the foreign ministry asked the World Health Organization’s regional office in Africa “to end the duties” of its representative in Equatorial Guinea, Dr. Triphonie Nkurunziza, “and immediately oversee her departure from Malabo.”

Prime Minister Pascual Obama Asue while appearing at the Senate last week had accused Nkurunziza of “falsifying the data of people contaminated” by COVID-19, AN AFP report said.

“We don’t have a problem with the WHO, we have a problem with the WHO’s representative in Malabo,” he said in remarks broadcast on state television.

A source at the UN office in Malabo, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the government’s request but declined to go into details.

“The government has asked her to go, we have received a document — she is accused of falsifying COVID-19 figures,” the source said.

However, Dr. Nkurunziza is still in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea’s island capital, as there are no flights enabling her to leave, the source said.

The authorities say that as of June 1, there were 1,306 recorded cases of coronavirus, 12 of them fatalities, in a population of 1.3 million

Meanwhile, Burundi in mid-May 2020 sacked the World Health Organization’s top official in the country just days before the May 22 presidential election and after the WHO raised concerns about crowded political rallies. 

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Senegalese protesters arrested for kicking against Covid-19 curfew

There were 74 arrests of the protesters– 29 in Touba, 38 in Mbacke, five in Tambacounda and two in Diourbel — Local media reported.

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President Macky Sall of Senegal

The police in Senegal have arrested more than 70 people for protesting against nighttime coronavirus curfew by the authorities in several cities across the West African country.

The protests over the 9pm and 5am curfew started on Tuesday and continued into the night, their severity prompting an appeal for calm by a major Muslim leader.

In Touba, a religious hub 200 kilometres (120 miles) east of the capital Dakar, three police vehicles and an ambulance were set ablaze, a senior official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A coronavirus treatment centre there was attacked and the windows of the offices of electricity provider Senelec were smashed, the source said.

Witnesses added that post office buildings in Touba — the seat of the politically powerful Sufi Muslim order called the Mouride Brotherhood — were attacked, an AFP report said.

In the neighbouring town of Mbacke, protesters damaged the local headquarters of radio station RFM, which is owned by singer and former minister Youssou N’Dour, according to the local journalists’ association 3CM.

The group said in a statement that it “firmly condemns these acts of vandalism” and “calls on the authorities to ensure the safety of the media during this period of riots”.

In a separate statement, the Council of Broadcasters and Press Publishers of Senegal (CDEPS) said “those responsible for this rampage must be tracked down and brought to justice”. 

Protestors also erected barricades and burned tyres in Mbacke, other witnesses said.

The Senegalese media added demonstrations also occurred in Tambacounda, in the east of the country, and Diourbel, in the west.

There were 74 arrests — 29 in Touba, 38 in Mbacke, five in Tambacounda and two in Diourbel — a source close to the case said on Wednesday.

– ‘Go home’ -The caliph, or leader, of the Mouride Brotherhood, Serigne Mountakha Mbacke, made a rare late-night TV appearance to call for an end to the protests in Touba, Senegal’s second-largest city with a population of around a million people.

“Go home. Tomorrow we will look at the source of the problems and how to address them. I don’t think we have ever seen this in Touba,” he said.

The curfew, imposed by President Macky Sall on March 23, bans movement between 9pm and 5am.

It is being implemented in tandem with a ban on travel between Senegal’s regions.

The measures have been extended until the end of June, although Sall eased other restrictions on May 11, allowing places of worship and markets to reopen.

High schools in the West African state had been due to reopen on Tuesday, but this step was delayed at the last minute after 10 teachers in the southern region of Casamance tested positive for COVID-19.

The country has recorded nearly 4,000 cases of coronavirus, 45 of them fatalities.

The figures are low compared to countries in Europe and the United States, although experts caution that, as elsewhere in Africa, Senegal is vulnerable to the pandemic because of its weak health system.

Demands for an easing of restrictions have mounted in the face of the plight of many Senegalese who depend on menial day-by-day jobs.

Around 40 percent of the population live below the threshold of poverty, according to a World Bank benchmark.

The government is expected to announce in the coming days whether it will ease some of the emergency curbs.

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