Lagos suspends re-opening of worship centres, event centres

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu

By Oziegbe Okoeki

THE Lagos State Government has rolled back its earlier decision to partially re-open churches, mosques, viewing and relaxation centres in the Centre of Excellence.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced the indefinite suspension of his earlier order to worship centres to resume services during the 15th news conference at the State House, Marina, where he gave an update on Lagos Coronavirus (COVID-19) response.

Besides, Sanwo-Olu said the government will soon conclude on the protocols to re-open basic and secondary schools in the state, noting that meetings were ongoing with stakeholders.

He said online learning already adopted by the state-owned tertiary institutions and secondary schools will continue until stakeholders agree on the protocols for schools’ resumption.

But for the new directive, obligatory services would have resumed in Lagos mosques and churches on June 19 and 21 respectively.

Religious bodies – local chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and the Chief Imam of Lagos Sheikh Sulaimon Oluwatoyin Abou-Nolla, reacted to the new order.

CAN Secretary Israel Akinadewo and the Chief Imam pitched tenth with government position. The PFN State Chairman, Bishop Sola Ore, differed, expressing sadness over the turn of event.

The decision, Sanwo-Olu said, was in line with the government’s evaluation of evolving scenarios regarding the course of the COVID-19 infection in the state and the corresponding public health advisory guidelines issued by experts.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) record shows that Lagos, with 7,319, has the highest confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.

Two thousand, three hundred and seventy-six of the cases were recorded between June 1 and 15.     Sanwo-Olu said: “As at midnight yesterday, June 15, 2020, Lagos State had recorded a total of 7,319 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

“Of this number, 1,137 have fully recovered and been discharged, while 82 have sadly died, leaving 6,100 active cases under management in the state.

“Our dear State therefore continues to be the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, with about 44 per cent of the total number of confirmed cases nationwide.

“Let me again say that the steady increase in number of confirmed cases is by no means unexpected. Considering that the infection is now very much in our midst, and testing capacity has increased, the more we test, the more the number of positive cases that will emerge.

“The uplifting news is that, based on the statistics emerging from Lagos State, more than 90 per cent of the people who test positive will go on to fully recover under supervision, and be discharged.”

The governor said the earlier “guided reopening” had to be suspended because of these developments.

He said: “We have been closely monitoring the situation since then, and have now concluded that we cannot proceed with any form of re-opening for places of worship in Lagos State, until further notice.

“So, let me say this again: we are now hereby suspending, with immediate effect, the plan to re-open religious houses and places of worship in Lagos State, until further notice.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and continue to base our decision-making on data modelling; as well as on the responsibility we have to act in a manner that ensures the protection of all of you the people of Lagos State.

“Therefore, until further notice, all places of worship in Lagos State will remain closed. Social and events centers, and social clubs, will also remain closed, for now.”

The governor said the state is now in the phase where every individual will take full personal responsibility regarding the pandemic.

“This means that, while the government maintains its responsibility to take protective decisions for the common good, what will ultimately save us all and defeat this virus are the sensible personal decisions that we take on a daily basis.

“Decisions to use masks anytime you are out of your house, to avoid non-essential travel, to stay at home when we don’t have any business being outside, to wash or sanitize our hands regularly – these are the simple but necessary steps that will save and protect us all.

“As a government we will continue to do everything in our power to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the people, but that can only be effective when the people themselves act responsibly, and do not behave in a manner that undermines public health guidelines and puts the society at risk.”

“We will, as always, continue to keep you informed and updated on the decisions that are taken for the public health and safety of all of us.

“One of the most important tasks that we face as a government is to carefully and responsibly balance the competing considerations of life and livelihood, and one of the most important tasks before you as citizens is to abide by the decisions that have been taken for the good of all of us – even when it is not easy to do so.”

Thanking whistle-blowers who have been reporting infractions on guidelines, Sanwo-Olu urged them to speak up and report on the hotlines: 0901-051- 3197; 0901-051-3198; 0901-051-3199, promising that strict confidentiality will be guaranteed.