• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

COVID-19: Religious houses in open worship, night clubs bubble in Abuja

Night clubs in Abuja

There is open worship in various religious houses in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), despite serious push by the National Assembly for federal government to ban public gatherings. 

This is just as there was low turn-up of worshipers at various churches in Abuja on Sunday for fear of being infected by the coronavirus.

The two arms of the National Assembly – Senate and House of Representatives, had urged the Federal Government to immediately ban open worship in religious houses and other public gatherings, following confirmation of fresh cases of coronavirus in the country.

This came as Lagos and some states  in the South West region had since banned public gatherings above 50 persons including churches, mosques and night clubs.

The FCT Administration at an emergency meeting with religious leaders last Friday, in Abuja, insisted that worshippers must follow all laid down health protocols as stipulated by the relevant health authorities for the control of the coronavirus pandemic, including restriction of open gatherings.

According to FCTA, the restriction applies to social gatherings at event centres, football viewing centres and night clubs, amongst others.

At the weekend, the Federal Ministry of Health had confirmed three fresh cases of the COVID-19 in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

However, BusinessDay investigations revealed that religious houses including mosques and churches, were still holding open religious gathering, as against advisory of social distancing to prevent spread of the virus.

However, it was observed on Sunday that while some worship centres were filled to capacity, many worshippers did not attend church service due to fear of the outbreak. The pews were empty in some of the churches visited.

The situation affected activities in the churches. It was gathered that offering and tithes droped drastically.

Joy Aernan, who worship at St. Donald’s Catholic Church, FHA Karu, said she did not go to church because she was afraid of being infected with coronavirus.

“At normal Sundays, I don’t miss Mass but today,  I did not go because there was information that three persons were confirmed with coronavirus in Abuja. Even though I love God, I cannot take such risk,” she said.

Contrary, some Churches in Abuja, on Sunday deferred the restriction of congregation at places of worship to a maximum of 50 persons as was reportedly resolved by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), as part of measures to tame the spread of dreaded coronavirus.

Instead, the congregants were made to use hand sanitizers before entrance.

Also, at the weekend, there was gathered crowd during Jumaat prayers at various mosques in the city,  including the popular National Mosque located in the Central Business District of the FCT.

On Sunday, at the Dunamis International Auditorium, Airport Road, with carrying capacity of over 50,000, was obviously filled with worshipers in the three services. However, hand sanitizers were compulsorily used while the General Overseer, Paul Enenche, who is a medical Doctor, sensitized the congregations on safety measures.

Also, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Karu, one of the biggest parishes in Abuja, had a lowered size of congratulation in both the first and second masses. Everyone was made to apply hand sanitizer while the practice of shaking hands as a sign of peace was jettisoned.

Speaking on flaunting of open gathering, Musa Aliyu, a member of a popular mosque in Karu district of Abuja said: “we need to continue to pray so that Allah will eradicate the virus. We know that nothing will happen that is why we are still praying together.

“You can see that everybody came to mosque for prayers and insha Allah, nothing will happen to any of our members and moreover, there is no ban for public gathering in Abuja,”he said.

It was also seen that virtually in all parts of the city, including the highbrow Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse, Garki, Utako and Jabi areas among others, churches were filled with worshipers as if there was no mindful of the coronavirus outbreak.

Some of the worshipers explained that they went to church because they had faith that none of the church members would be allowed by God to be infected with the virus, same with persons who were met at mosques.

Simon Nze, a worshiper who was met in Wuse, Sunday, while returning from church with his family, said; “We went to church as usual, although we noticed that many persons did not come for mass.

“What some of us know and believe with faith is that, the virus cannot infect any of our church members because, even while in church, we were advised to be careful, not to shake hands, and that we should use hand sanitizer always,” Nze faithfully stated.

Meanwhile, FCT residents have continued with their normal social lifestyles of unwinding, in crowd mode, against social distancing advisory measures.

A visit to Vocano Night Club located in Gwarimpa area of Abuja, Saturday, showed that night life was excitingly as both men and women were seen unwinding freely, shaking hands and hugging simultaneously.

Don Benz (not real name), a night club crooner, said he was at the club with his friends to unwind after expending whole week-days with busy schedules in the office. According to him, “coronavirus or not, we are partying bro and I don’t think this can infect anyone of us, we are simply having fun”

Peeved with the situation in Abuja, Patrick O. Okigbo III, on Sunday, took to social media handle (facebook) and said: “I rode past Holy Trinity Cathedral Abuja this morning and the church was in full session.

“Further down the road, ECWA was in session. You already know that COZA was in full session today. On the stretch to my home, the small church that recently moved from a makeshift structure to the uncompleted house was in full session as well. This is grossly irresponsible and stupid.

“None of the leaders of these churches can claim that they do not know what the world is going through. None can claim that they do not know that Africa will most likely be the epicenter of this pandemic. Our cultural practices and sub-standard infrastructure have already sentenced us to death should #Covid19 find its way to these shores. Sadly, it has.

“With leadership comes great responsibility. There are risks one can take as an individual that one is not allowed to take as a leader. A hen with chicks can’t afford to fly on top a tree. These religious leaders should know this and handle their offices with great responsibility.

“The window for stupidity has closed. We are at the beginnings of a storm. This is not the time to continue the “anyhowness” that got us in this trouble in the first place,” Okigbo stated.

At the time of filing this report, the Federal Government was yet to officially announce any ban on all public gatherings, like the Lagos State Government has done.

 Solomon Ayado and James Kwen, Abuja