The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) on Thursday urged state governors to exercise caution in relaxing restrictions, stressing that large gatherings beyond 20 persons remained prohibited.
The Chairman of PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who gave the advice at the daily press briefing in Abuja, said it served as a stark reminder to the entire world about the severity of the COVID-19 when the World Health Organisation (WHO) said there was still a long way to go in fighting the pandemic.
The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus announced that 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,” Mustapha said.
The SGF urged state governments to diligently implement the guidelines and to exercise caution in relaxing restrictions in a manner capable of setting back the gains already made.
“I participated in the National Economic Council with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo 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 emphasised. Similarly emphasised 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 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 20 persons remains prohibited and should be adhered to,” the SGF said.
He admonished Muslims in the country to wear a mask, keep physical distancing, avoid large congregations, avoid unnecessary inter-state travels and observe personal hygiene among other suggested safety measures during the Eid-el-Fitr celebration .
Mustapha state this as controversy over this year’s Eid-el-Fitr celebration in the north raged on with some Islamic leaders and state governors giving opposing directives on where Muslims should offer prayers and mark the day.
On Wednesday, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, directed that Muslims should observe the prayers at home as a way of complying with government protocols to prevent the spread of the ravaging coronavirus.
The sultan, in a statement issued by the NSCIA Deputy Secretary-General, Prof. Salisu Shehu, said in part:” Muslims are advised to be law-abiding in all circumstances while praying to Allah fervently in their various homes, if that is what the situation requires, to forgive our sins and heal the world from destructive and disruptive diseases like coronavirus. Certainly, people all over the world at large and Nigeria in particular are under intense pressure and the sooner the pandemic is over, the better for us all.”
Sultan’s directive came after some northern states including Kano, Bauchi, Yobe, Jigawa,Gombe, Borno and Zamfara, had opened the mosques in their domains for religious activities.
On Thursday, the Chairman of Borno State Committee on Prevention and Control of COVID-19, Umar Kadafur, directed Muslims to perform their Eid-el-Fitr prayers at the Eid open grounds.
It was learnt that the decision to pray at Eid grounds was taken on Wednesday after consultations with Islamic clerics who agreed to conduct the exercise in the open.
The Borno COVID-19 response team secretary, Dr. Salihu Kwayabura, who doubles as the Health Commissioner, disclosed this in a statemen in Maiduguri.
Also, in Kano State, the government has relaxed the lockdown for three days- Wednesday, Friday and Saturday to enable residents to observe open religious and social activities while adhering strictly to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocols.
While meeting with central mosques Imams drawn from across the 44 local government areas at Government House on Thursday, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje disclosed some rules that would guide Eid-el-Fitr activities in the mosques.
Among the protocols is that prayers should be conducted within a period of one hour, so as to allow people to disperse quickly. The wearing of face masks remains compulsory for Muslims to be allowed access to mosques and they must observe physical distancing.
“It is necessary for whoever wants to enter into a mosque or its surrounding to wear a face mask to protect himself and others. Water and soap will be placed at the entrance. Anyone attending must wash his hands. Sanitizer will also be there,” Ganduje said.
But the Council of Ulama of the Ilorin Emirate Council in Kwara State cancelled the annual Eid-el-Fitr congregational prayers in the state capital, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The council, led by the Chief Imam of Ilorin, Muhammad Bashir Saliu as well as other clerics, on the authority of the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman, Kwara State Council Chiefs, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, said Muslim faithful should observe the two ‘rakatnafilah’ (Rakat prayers) in their respective homes.