The federal government yesterday disagreed completely with the decision of some governors in the northern part of the country to relax restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
It cautioned the governors lifting the ban on religious gathering at worship centres with a view to paving way for the Eid-el-Fitr prayers to have a rethink.
Secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, stated federal government’s position during the daily briefing of the presidential task force on COVID-19 in Abuja.
The SGF who is also the chairman of the PTF noted that the decision by the governors to open praying grounds for Sallah prayers could inadvertently endanger the elderly, the sick and those with underlying factors during such religious gatherings.
He warned vehemently that large gatherings beyond 20 persons remained prohibited and should be adhered to strictly.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that the Sultan of Sokoto and president-general of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, had also maintained federal government’s position when he urged Muslims to observe their Eid-el-Fitr prayers at home in line with guidelines for the COVID-19 lockdown.
As Muslims celebrate Sallah this weekend, the federal government yesterday cautioned Nigerians on the need to wear masks, keep physical distances, avoid large congregations, unnecessary interstate travels and observe personal hygiene amongst other suggested safety measures.
Mustapha said, “I wish to inform you that I participated in the virtual meeting of the National Economic Council with the vice president and all the state governors. This is coming on the heels of an earlier virtual meeting between the president and the governors in a space of one week.
“During the meeting, the issue of alignment of their state level actions with the guidelines issued was emphasized. Similarly emphasized is the need for states to diligently implement and enforce compliance.
“Particularly, I underscored the need for the governors to provide personal and strong leadership, carry the policy of community ownership to the grassroots and create deeper awareness.
“The governors were also advised on the decision taken by some of their colleagues to permit large gatherings as such decisions could inadvertently endanger the elderly, the sick and those with underlying factors during such gatherings. The strong advisory from the PTF is that large gatherings beyond twenty persons remain prohibited and should be adhered to”.
The SGF noted that in the past days, the PTF had consistently answered questions and provided explanations on the categories of persons and services exempted from some aspects of the guidelines, particularly as it relates to restrictions on interstate movement and curfew.
Clarifying on this, he said, “For the avoidance of doubt, essential workers, including our indefatigable medical personnel, diligent journalists, courageous fire service personnel, telecommunications workers, are all exempted.
“The Inspector General of Police has further clarified the categories of essential workers in alignment with the guidelines and has issued instructions to security agents to work on the approved exemptions.
“With this clarification, we sincerely hope that the persistent complaints of harassment by these categories of essential workers, especially medical personnel and journalists would be put to rest so that we can harmoniously work in battling this pandemic”.
He urged all essential workers to go about their legitimate businesses carrying with them valid means of identification and to exercise courtesy in approaching security personnel.
The SGF also noted that through the surveillance system it set up, the PTF received reports that Nigerians had been purchasing Hydrxoychloroquine in large quantities, warning that the drug is still not certified as cure for the virus.
He stated: “We wish to reiterate that this drug has not being certified for use in treating COVID-19 in Nigeria by the relevant health and pharmaceutical authorities.
“Self-medication of any kind is fraught with the danger of increasing risks of avoidable casualties. We, therefore strongly warn against self-medication.
“If you are sick, please seek medical advice and if you are confirmed positive, kindly self-isolate in an approved facility. The COVID-19 is highly infectious and dangerous.”
Insisting on caution on the part of Nigerians, he said, “Yesterday, Wednesday, May 20th 2020, served as a stark reminder to the entire world about the severity of the COVID-19 when the World Health Organisation (WHO) reminded the world that we still have a long way to go in fighting this pandemic.
“According to Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director General, 106,000 cases were recorded globally in twenty-four hours, representing the highest single day number since the outbreak of the pandemic. This is significant because it brings to realization, the relentless assault, of the virus on humanity.
“For us in Nigeria, the importance of this message is very clear. We need to eschew skepticism about the existence of this virus and its potency, change our behavior and commit to joining hands in tackling this pandemic”.
States Divided, Give Differing Guidelines For Sallah
Meanwhile, some state governments yesterday differed on their guidelines and protocols for COVID-19 to Muslim faithful as they mark the Sallah celebrations.
Kano State government told Chief Imams of Jumma’at Mosques that the Eid-el-Fitr must be observed by all Islamic adherents during Fridays and Eid-el-fitr prayer.
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje enumerated some of the guidelines as washing of hands by every person willing to observe the congregational prayer with hand sanitizers, social distancing, wearing of face masks, among others.
Speaking when he met with Imams drawn from 44 local government areas of the state at the Coronation Hall of Government House, Kano, yesterday, Ganduje said, “I want to assure you that in all the decisions we took we must have to consult you before taking such decision especially the ones concerning religion which you are versatile on.
“People must follow the protocols for us to get rid of this global pandemic called COVID-19. That is why we decided to call you and intimate you about these protocols. We will have them written in vernacular, which will be given to people during prayers. And they will be translated into Arabic for the benefit of those who cannot read and write in English”
“Part of the protocols handed over to them was that prayers be conducted within a period of one hour, so as to allow people to disperse quickly. The one hour includes that of sermon and the prayer itself. Packets of face masks were distributed to them for onward distribution to other adherents.
“Water and soap will be placed at the entrance of every Eid ground for people to wash their hands before entering. Anyone attending must wash his hands. The sanitiser will also be provided,”
But in Kwara State, the council of Ulama in Ilorin Emirate, urged Muslims to observe Eid- el- Fitr prayers at their homes.
The council gave the directive in a statement signed by its vice chairman, Sheikh Abdullahi AbdulHamid who is also the Imam Imale of Ilorin.
It added that the directive bacome necessary because of the need to observe COVID-19 safety protocols by the Muslim faithful during the Eid-el- Fitr prayers.
The council urged Muslims across the 16 local government areas of the state to make the sacrifice so as to forestall possible spread of COVID-19.
“The directive of the state government concerning keeping social distance among others at this time of COVID-19 aimed at protecting lives and public safety must be complied with by the worshoppers,” it added.
In Kaduna, the state Security Council yesterday reminded residents that the restriction of movement against the spread of COVID-19 was not relaxed, saying it will be strictly enforced.
In a statement by Samuel Aruwan, commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, the state government explained that the lockdown was relaxed only for Wednesday and Thursday of theweek.
Aruwan said security agencies are mandated to strictly enforce the extant Quarantine Orders on all other days.
The statement urged residents to continue to comply with lockdown conditions, “including the restriction of movement, the prohibition of any sort of congregational worship and the ban on any large gathering or social activity of any sort.
“The Kaduna State Government has explained the public health considerations that have informed these measures and appealed to citizens to endure the sacrifices required to protect everyone from Covid-19. As part of confidence-building measures to reassure residents and uphold law and order, security agencies will be undertaking enhanced patrols across the state. Measures against interstate travel will also be robustly enforced at the boundaries of the state”.
In Benue State, however, Governor Samuel Ortom yesterday disclosed the state’s resolve to suspend the partial lockdown initially put in place to nip the spread of COVID-19 in the bud.
This is even as the governor insisted that the inter-state movement remained prohibited, except for those on essential services.
The governor stated this during the state executive council meeting with the state action committee on COVID-19 in Makurdi where it was resolved that Churches and Mosques will commence the holding of staggered worship sessions from yesterday.
According to the governor, the implication is that Churches or Mosques which before now were holding two worship sessions will henceforth be conducting four sessions or more in a day.
Ortom also asked workers from grade level 1 to 12 who were asked to stay at home to resume work on June 1, 2020, advising them to always wear their face masks and maintain social distancing as they go to work.
“Although Street trading is encouraged, this will strictly be based on obeying social distancing protocol of COVID-19. Markets will be partially opened to enable traders access their shops and fumigation of markets will be carried out periodically”, he stated.
The Governor also announced the review of the already existing curfew in the state which was earlier fixed at 7pm to 6am to now commence from 8pm to 6am daily till further notice.
In Katsina, the state government is said to have relaxed its lockdown order as a result of pressure mounted by residents of the state.
Speaking with some journalists in his office yesterday, permanent secretary in the state ministry of Health, Dr. Kabir Mustapha, said the people of the state mounted pressure on government to relax the lockdown order, insisting that they had no food in their houses and government as well cannot provide enough food for them.
He said, “Our people fail to understand and appreciate what government is doing. Government is under serious pressure, handling so many things and that is why we are where we are. But we are trying our best to curtail the virus.
“The people are saying they don’t have food; they want to go out and look for food, and government cannot provide food for everybody. So, the only thing government could do was to relax the lockdown so that they can go and look for food.
“We have seen riots in other countries of Europe and we don’t want that to happen in katsina. So what can we do since we don’t have what we can give the people and we don’t want them to turn against us either?”
In Oyo, the state governor, Seyi Makinde, yesterday debunked media report that the state government has lifted the ban on public gathering, including opening of Churches and Mosques.
The governor’s special adviser on media, Jide Ajani, while reacting to a purported statement that the state government had lifted the ban, said, “The statement by one Adenuga is fake, and advised religious houses to obey existing restriction order.
“There is a fake press statement presently in circulation, referencing some Executive Orders allegedly issued by the Executive Governor of Oyo State, His Excellency, Engineer Seyi Makinde.
“The individual who signed the statement is one Adeniran Adenuga, who assumed the title of ‘Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor.
“This fake news is not from Governor Makinde’s Media Office and the so-called Executive Orders are false in all materials particular. Being a member of Oyo State Covid-19 Task Force, I can confirm that no such decisions have been taken.
“Therefore, as of today, there is no lifting of the ban on public gatherings – including churches and mosques.”
JNI Backs Sultan, Asks Muslims To Pray At Home
Meanwhile, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) yesterday filed behind the Sultan of Sokoto and president-general of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, on his position that Muslims should observe their Eid-el-Fitr prayers in accordance with guidelines for the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Sultan had on Wednesday warned that Eid-el-Fitr was not a compulsory religious activity, and at no point should it be observed if doing so will undermine the fundamental purpose of shari’ah, a multifaceted concept which includes personal, community, national, environmental and health components, among others.
JNI’s Fatwa Committee, in its own position contained in a statement signed by its secretary-general, Sheikh Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, noted that the restriction will be in states under lockdown on Sallah day, while in the states where movement is relaxed, Muslims can venture out to say their prayers at the eid ground.
It noted: “Jama’atu Nasril Islam under the leadership of Alhaji (Dr.) Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto and President-General JNI, in a mandate to the JNI Fatwa Committee, to come up with FATWA regarding the year 2020 ‘Eid-el-Fitr Prayer.
“The committee, under the leadership of Sheikh Sheriff Ibrahim Saleh Alhusainy, after due consultations as well as considerations of the current state Covid-19 pandemic and the serious threat it poses to life, reached the following decisions:
“Eid-el-Fitr congregation in the outskirts of towns and cities should be temporarily suspended. That the said ‘Eid-el-Fitr Prayer be observed at home with family members or alone in case there isn’t anyone with him or her at home.
“That the ‘Eid-el-Fitr Prayers is two Raka’at. Seven Takbirat to be pronounced in the first Raka’at, including the opening Takbir. Then Suratul Fatiha is read and any other Surah, preferably Suratul A’ala. While in the second Rakah, five Takbirat be pronounced. Then Suratul Fatiha is read and any other Surah, preferably Suratul Ghashiyah.
“In the case of praying at home, as it may be, the Khutbah (sermon) is suspended.
“All above mentioned are based on the Hadith of Anas Bn Malik in Sahih al-Bukhari and Maliki School of law decisions, in Mukhtasar, as explained by Al-Kharshi and Al-Munah al-Jalil.
“However, in states where governments have reached concrete decisions to observe the ‘Eid-el-Fitr prayer based on their medical experts’ advice, strictest measures of distancing, face masks and sanitizers be taken to protect worshipers. In this case neighborhood Mosques can be utilized if it becomes necessary.
“Ulama should fear Allah, the Most High, and be matured enough in guarding their utterances and actions for the overall interest of the Deen and the Ummah. Nigerian Muslims are therefore called upon to reflect their minds on the good virtues of the month of Ramadan and keep to its teachings all through their respective lives, as the Lord of Ramadan is still and shall remain The Lord of other months, above all keeps the records of our actions and inactions. More so, Muslims are reminded to keep to the ordinances of the Glorious Qur’an, for the prestige of the Muslim Ummah”.
Sultan Urges Muslims To Look Out For New Moon
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, last night directed Muslim Ummah in the country to look out for the new moon of Shawwal 1441 AH from today.
Sultan who gave the directive in a statement signed by Prof. Sambo Junaidu, chairman, advisory committee on religious affairs of the Sultanate Council also demanded that its sighting should be duly reported via the appropriate quarters.
The statement noted: “This is to inform the Muslim Ummah that Friday, May 22, 2020, which is equivalent to 29th day of Ramadan 1441 AH, shall be the day to look out for the new moon of Shawwal 1441 AH.
“Muslims are, therefore, requested to start looking out for the new moon and to report its sighting to the nearest district or village head for onward communication to the Sultan,”
50% Of Coronavirus Deaths Occur At Home, Says Ehanire
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, hinted yesterday that about half of the COVID-19 deaths recorded so far in the country occurred at home, even as 50 per cent of those who died at home did not show any symptom.
Speaking at the briefing of the presidential task force on COVID-19, the minister said, “Nearly half of them died at home. Of those who died at home, about 50 per cent did not show any symptom. This underscores my earlier emphasis on the need for those who test positive to report for treatment.
“I would also advice those who have taken the test and are awaiting result to heed the advisory to self-isolate from friends, wear face masks and observe hand and respiratory hygiene until your result is releases. By so doing, you will be protecting your family, your friends and your community.”
Ehinare stated that the ministry has scaled up training of health workers on infection prevention and control, adding that the training has significantly reduced infection among health workers.
“We have trained the 4th batch of Health Care Workers and Patent and Proprietary Medicine Vendors in Kano State. Training and retraining is a continuous process and we shall sustain the initiative,” he added.