By Ogochukwu Anioke, Abakaliki
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state on Friday lifted the ban on religious worship after more than a month ban on opening of churches, mosques and other religious centers.
The lifting of the ban which is to take effect from 15th May, 2020 will have religious centers conduct their worship once in a week.
The ban was imposed as part of efforts to prevent spread of the deadly Coronavirus in the state.
Despite the ban and other measures including closure of the state borders with neighbouring states, the state still recorded nine cases of the virus.
The lifting of the ban followed weeks of pressure by some Christian faithfuls in the state who questioned why Churches were closed while markets remained opened.
The governor announced the lifting of the ban in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation and Acting Commissioner Human Capital Development and Monitoring, Uchenna Orji.
He emphasised that the waiver was in response to the passionate appeal made by the Leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ebonyi State Chapter.
According to the Commissioner, other bodies that made the appeal for the re-opening of Religious Centers includes, some Revered Bishops among other clergy.
The statement noted that the re-opening of the worship centers would be under strict observance of COVID-19 policy and State laws.
The statement said that the Governor after having prayerfully reviewed the request and in consultation with state leaders, “directed that religious centres in the state do re-open for worship once a week, effective from 15th May, 2020 under attendant conditions.”
According to the Commissioner, the reopening is coming with various conditions which he said includes that all Churches are to observe their service only on Sundays from 9am to 11 am.
“That Seventh Day Adventist and Muslim faithful are to observe their service on Saturdays and Fridays respectively from 9 am – 11 am. No Religious Centre shall permit more than 500 people and worshipers shall observe a minimum of 2 meters social distancing from one another.
“Wearing of facemasks, washing of hands with running water and use of hand sanitizers must be strictly observed in all religious centres. No religious service is allowed to hold any other day other than the days specified herein and which must be in strict observance of all COVID-19 Laws and regulations”.
“Christian Association of Nigeria ( CAN) has a duty to close down any religious gathering and arrest the principal of the worship centre that violates this order.”
According to the Statement, the Governor urges all Religious bodies in the state to use the opportunity of window of worship to create awareness among their members on the protocols, policies, laws and regulations regarding COVID-19 and to pray for the State and Nigeria.
“They are also enjoined to use the opportunity to advise their members to aggressively participate in agriculture and other lawful means of livelihood. CAN leadership and Anti- COVID-19 Committee on Religious Centres are requested to please mount strict monitoring of all religious centres in the state and ensure strict compliance and discipline among them.”
Meanwhile, Ebonyi state government has commenced the distribution of palliatives to residents of the state.
Speaker of Ebonyi state House of Assembly, who is also the chairman, state Anti COVID-19 sub committee on welfare and fund raising, Francis Nwifuru flagged off the exercise in Abakaliki on Friday.
He handed over the sum of N36 million and 726 bags of 5kg bags of rice to religious bodies and widows in the state.
The first batch of palliatives was handed over to leaders of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for distribution to their members and widows among others.
The breakdown of the palliatives was given as follows: CAN, 2,600 bags of 5kg rice and the sum of 13,000,000, 00.
CAN and Bishops 100 bags of rice and 5,000,000. CAN leadership in Ebonyi, 100bags of rice, 5,000,000.
Ebonyi state Widows 5,000 bags of rice and 13,000,000, respectively.