With the ongoing spread of the dreaded coronavirus becoming a major health concern; the Lagos State Government has banned all religious gatherings expected to consist of over 50 people within the state. Mainly affected are churches, mosques and other religious gatherings which usually draw sizeable attendances.
The decision was reached on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 after a closed-door meeting between the Lagos State Government officials and religious leaders. Equally important, the meeting was held at the Press Centre, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja.
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Olanrewaju Elegushi, announced the development to newsmen. He said that the decision was taken in the interest of Lagosians. Further, he disclosed that it was necessary toward curbing the spread of the dreaded coronavirus.
‘‘We met with religious leaders both Christians and Muslims. We discussed, argued and realised that the lives of Lagosians is important to us. We prefer to offend people than to kill our people.
‘‘Let me assure you that the state government is not insensitive to the Lenten period and various religious activities going on. We are concerned because it is only the living that can worship God.
”Having discussed extensively, the heads of religious bodies agreed the government should embark on massive education of the coronavirus at the grassroots level.
”Health workers should up their games, while more should be recruited; and hospitals should be compelled to attend to people without prejudice.
‘‘In view of this, we have decided to suspend all religious activities above 50 people. The enforcement starts with immediate effect,” the commissioner said.
Furthermore, he disclosed that a 15-man committee had been set up involving top religious leaders; to ensure compliance with the directive.
Speaking after the announcement, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State; Apostle Alexander Bamgbola, said the association was glad with the development.
‘‘We are going to follow the directive of the government. We are at a critical moment in our nation and God has been hearing our prayers concerning Coronavirus.
‘‘In view of the increased in number of infected cases, we must be proactive. It is not about religion but survival. We need to listen to government and be proactive so that God will continue to answer us,” Bamgbola said.
Also speaking, Chief Imam of Lagos State, Oluwatoyin Abou-Nolla, expressed his support for the decision. Further, he pledged to ensure the compliance of all Muslim faithful in the state.
‘‘We are in support of the decision which is aimed at safeguarding lives. We will educate all Muslims to abide by the decision and to also make personal hygiene a priority.’’
Meanwhile, the ban on religious gatherings comes in the wake of the confirmation of four new cases of coronavirus in Lagos; raising the total number of cases confirmed in the state to seven since inception.