Ondo state government has asked church leaders across the state not to attach religious sentiments to the ban on crossover service.
It explained that it was rather “aimed at strengthening public safety and to prevent the spread of COVID-19” in the State.
Chairman of the State Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19, Professor Adesegun Fatusi, said this in Akure during an interactive meeting with various religious leaders and stakeholders.
Recall that the state government had threatened church leaders who flout the ban on crossover service across the state following directive by the state Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that the services would hold in churches.
Government in its response warned of its consequences as well as legal penalties including fines and jail terms as specified in the Ondo state COVID-19 laws.
Meanwhile, explaining the rationale for the ban Fatusi said; “let me make it clear that the decision of the government to place a ban on Cross Over Vigil across the State is not about religion or targeted at one religion but aimed at strengthening public safety and strongly prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the State.
He pointed out that the meeting is part of the Committee’s strategies to strengthen the fight against COVID-19 and better educate leaders on the need to play exemplary role in the fight against the virus.
Fatusi commended some religious leaders and other stakeholders who have supported the government in its efforts at mitigating the spread of the infectious disease appealed to the Church to remain an agent of change.
He stressed that there is need for every stakeholder, including church leaders, to key into the fight against COVID-19, adding that government will continue to carry out advocacy and sensitization programmes to re-educate the people about the pandemic and its dangers.
While admonishing the leaders to obey government directive regarding ban on cross over vigil, the chairman promised to convey their appeal for lifting the ban to the Governor, for further directive.
“We are talking about a matter of life and death. People have talked about maintaining protocols in markets and other places, but focus on churches and mosques is because by their designs they spread COVID-19 more than open places.
“It is an enclosed place and people are more active therein.
“The likelihood of higher infection is very prominent.
“The decision to cancel cross over vigil is not about churches, you will recalled that the government cancelled Muslims gathering too, it is about subsisting order for prevention of outbreak of infection and reducing further spread of COVID-19.”
Fatusi therefore disabused the minds of the church leaders that the government is not biased to any religion but concerned about the safety of its citizens.
He called on the religious leaders to cooperate with the government and abide by the decision that all services should end by 10pm.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Oladipupo Durojaiye, harped on the need for the people to celebrate in moderation and join hands in fight against the virus, in the interest of all.
Durojaiye maintained that Coronavirus is novel and had continued to exhibit series of variants, thus, they must avoid large gathering or staying too long in an enclosed occasion.
The State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Revd. Ayo Oladapo while responding appealed to the state government to rescind the directive and allow the services to hold.
Oladapo cited neighbouring states in the South West where their governors have allowed the crossover services.
He stressed that churches have been educating the people on preventive measures against the pandemic.
The chairman who said the Association is law abiding and will not work against the directive of the government called for a stronger working relationship between the church and the government.
Other religious leaders who spoke appealed to the governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, to be magnanimous by allowing the crossover services to hold across the state.