COVID-19: Umahi lifts ban on religious activities in Ebonyi- By Reginald Okoro

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Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi

Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi on Friday announced the suspension of ban on church and other religious activities in the state.

The governor announced the suspension in a statement signed by Mr Uchenna Orji, Commissioner for Information and State Orientation and made available to newsmen in Abakaliki.

The ban was imposed as part of efforts to prevent spread of the deadly novel Coronavirus in the state.

Despite the ban and other measures including closure of the state borders with neighbouring states, the state still recorded nine cases of the virus.

The lifting of the ban followed weeks of pressure by some Christian faithful in the state who questioned why Churches were closed while markets remained opened.

He emphasised that the waiver was in response to the passionate appeal made by the Leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ebonyi State Chapter.

According to the Commissioner, other bodies that made the appeal for the re-opening of Religious Centers include; some bishops and other clergy.

The statement noted that the re-opening of the worship centers would be under strict observance of COVID-19 policy and state laws.

The statement said that the governor after having prayerfully reviewed the request and in consultation with state leaders directed that religious centres in the state did re-open for worship once a week, effective from May 15, 2020 under attendant conditions.

According to the Commissioner, the reopening is coming with various conditions which he said includes that all Churches are to observe their service only on Sundays from 9am to 11 am.

“That Seventh Day Adventist and Muslim faithful are to observe their service on Saturdays and Fridays respectively from 9 am – 11 am.

“No Religious Centre shall permit more than 500 people and worshipers shall observe a minimum of two metres social distancing from one another.

“Wearing of facemasks, washing of hands under running water and use of hand sanitizers must be strictly observed in all religious centres.

“No religious service is allowed to hold any other day other than the days specified herein and which must be in strict observance of all COVID-19 laws and regulations.

”Christian Association of Nigeria has a duty to close down any religious gathering and arrest the principal of the worship centre that violates this order,” the statement read.

The governor in the statement further urged all religious bodies in the state to use the opportunity of window of worship to create awareness among their members on the protocols, policies, laws and regulations regarding COVID-19 and to pray for the State and Nigeria.

“They are also enjoined to use the opportunity to advise their members to aggressively participate in agriculture and other lawful means of livelihood.

“CAN leadership and Anti- COVID-19 Committee on Religious Centres are requested to please mount strict monitoring of all religious centres in the state and ensure strict compliance and discipline among them, ” it read.

Rt hon Francis Nwifuru

Meanwhile, Ebonyi government has commenced the distribution of palliatives to residents of the state.

Speaker of Ebonyi state House of Assembly, who is also the chairman, state Anti COVID-19 sub committee on welfare and fund raising, Francis Nwifuru flagged off the exercise in Abakaliki on Friday.

He handed over the sum of N36 million and 726 bags of 5kg bags of rice to religious bodies and widows in the state.

The first batch of palliatives was handed over to leaders of CAN for distribution to their members and widows among others.

The breakdown of the palliatives was given as follows: CAN, 2,600 bags of 5kg rice and the sum of N13,000,000, 00.

CAN and Bishops 100 bags of rice and N5,000,000, CAN leadership in Ebonyi, 100 bags of rice, N5,000,000.Ebonyi state Widows 5,000 bags of rice and N13,000,000, respectively.

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