HOW will Nigerians who are used to “praying their way” into the new year in churches get their hearts’ desire this time around in view of the coronavirus pandemic?
The Presidential Task Force of COVID-19 has advised against church services this night in respect of the protocol against mass gathering of people.
Many church denominations such as the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) , the Winners Chapel and Daystar have dropped the plan to gather members in parishes and opted to hold online services.
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) National President Rev. Samson Ayokunle advised state chapters to adhere strictly to directives by the authorities on the crossover night service.
“There is no sacrifice that is too much to put an end to the Coronavirus pandemic in the interest of all and sundry,” he said
However, CAN leaders in some of the states have been lobbying governors to allow services to hold.
As a result, many states have bowed to pressure to reverse their decision stopping services from holding. Christians in the Federal Capital Territory(FCT), Oyo and Delta states will now attend services to herald the New Year. But, it will be under strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols
The Ondo State government rejected the plea.
The Lagos State chapter of CAN said it would hold a one-hour crossover live broadcast (11:30 pm today and 12:30 am tomorrow) to herald the New year.
State CAN Chairman Bishop Steven Adegbite said they came up with the idea to ensure the safety of worshipers and to protect Christians against molestation by overzealous security operatives.
The live broadcast, he explained, would be on Lagos Television (LTV) and other TV channels in the state.
He added that the broadcast would be coordinated by church leaders to promote unity and oneness of the church in line with CAN motto: “That they may be one.”
Senior Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, Sam Adeyemi, in a tweet said: “If you say “Happy New Year” at 2 pm on 31st December in Lagos, you won’t be wrong. You’ll only be joining people in Sydney, Australia to say it at that time. In fact, you’ll be 10 hours ahead of others in Nigeria. Don’t stress over time to crossover. Just crossover. #HappyNewYear Sam Adeyemi”.
FCTA approves crossover night service
The FCT Administration (FCTA) approved the crossover night service, but urged churches to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols.
Head, Media and Public Enlightenment of the FCT COVID-19 Task Force, Ikaro Attah, said a combined team of security personnel would go round to monitor compliance during the service.
Attah said: “As enforcement team that takes directive from FCT Minister, Mallam Muhammad Bello, we are working in collaboration with CAN leaders at all levels and League of Imams.
“We had discussions with religious leaders on the need to obey the COVID-19 protocols.
“So, all those who will be engaging in crossover night worship service must adhere strictly to the guidelines. They should put on their face mask, provide washing hand basin as well as keep physical distancing”.
He advised that “all the worship centres should not be overcrowded.”.
Attah, who warned that worshippers that failed to observe the COVID-19 protocols would be arrested and prosecuted, said their churches would be shut.
Oyo lifts curfew, permits crossover service
The Oyo state government has permitted crossover service as it lifted its 12 am to 4 am curfew.
It, therefore, ordered that religious centres be allowed to hold the service only in strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.
A statement by Governor Seyi Makinde’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr Taiwo Adisa,, on the issue, “warned citizens and residents of the state to ensure strict compliance with the guidelines, protocols and advisories as laid down by the COVID-19 Task Force aimed at limiting the transmission of the disease in our communities.:.
The government also directed that “enforcement of these guidelines and protocols in accordance with the law will be applied as appropriate.”
Crossover service to hold in Delta
The crossover service will hold across churches in Delta State, the chairman of CAN in the state, Apostle Sylvanus Okorote, has said.
He told The Nation in a telephone interview on Wednesday that until CAN receives new directives from the government regarding COVID-19 preventive measures, churches will hold the service by complying with the 50 per cent worship capacity.
His words: “CAN is not an independent body. CAN functions within the ambience of the laws of the land. As it is now, the state government has neither said hold the service or do not hold the service.
“What the state government has done is issue directives for people to comply with the COVID-19 protocols, as in having only 50 per cent capacity of your church, maintaining physical distancing, having sanitisers and washing of hands and wearing of face masks.
“That is what the state government has said so far. We are waiting for more directives from the government. But, we’ve told the churches so far is comply with the directives of the state “.
Ban stays in Ondo
The Ondo State Government has said that the ban on the cross overnight was aimed at strengthening public safety and not to target any religious group.
Chairman of the state Inter-ministerial Committee on Coronavirus (COVID-19), Prof. Adesegun Fatusi, recalled during an interactive session with religious leaders and stakeholders, that the government had also “cancelled Muslims gathering too,”
He added: “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 recall 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”.
The state CAN Chairman, Revd. Ayo Oladapo, had earlier appealed to the government to permit churches to hold the crossover service.
Boris urges Britons to stay home
Those marking New Year’s Eve today in the United Kingdom have been urged to celebrate with their immediate families at home as Covid -19 continues to spread
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “All of these measures in the end are designed to save lives and protect the NHS. For that very reason I must ask you to follow the rules where you live tomorrow (today) night and see in the new year safely at home.
“That means not meeting up with friends or family indoors unless in the same household or support bubble and avoiding large gatherings of any kind.
“We are still in the tunnel of this pandemic.”