CHRISTIAN and Islamic leaders on Monday disagreed over government’s claim that reopening of religious centres has contributed to the spike in COVID-19 cases since the second wave hit the country last November.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control Mr. Boss Mustapha, told reporters that reopening of schools and businesses also caused the high infection rate.
He said: “It is very instructive to stress that factors that have contributed to rise in numbers from late November 2020 included increased local and international travels, business and religious activities, reopening of schools without strict compliance with COIVID-19 safety measures.
“The full import of the fore-going is to press further on the need for us all to elevate the level of our vigilance and compliance with the recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“The current wave of infections is swift and virulent and we do not know how long it will last. Besides, the facilities available for the treatment of critical cases remain very limited and we do not wish to be overwhelmed. Your best bet therefore is to avoid infections completely”.
But, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) expressed divergent views.
While CAN described the PTF claim as ‘wild’, the NSCIA supported the claim, saying it will not hesitate to shut down mosques should the government so direct.
CAN General Secretary Joseph Daramola said: “It is not true that the reopening of churches caused the second wave of COVID-19. Is it the opening of churches that caused the second wave of COVID-19 in other developed countries?
“All the places they locked have been opened. Nobody should try and make issues out of this. They may have their statistics, but if you go to churches in Abuja, they are still wearing masks. They have been keeping to the social distance.
“In my church, we are still abiding by the COVID-19 protocols. I do not agree so. Since the government is there and it has all its apparatus, they can set up a committee.
“The statement is too wide. I do not want to go into conflict with government officials. What is happening is all over the world.”
But the NSCIA, led by Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, is willing to support measures by the government.
NSCIA spokesman Aselemi Ibrahim said: “The council is a product of law and we are law abiding organisation. And Boss Mustapha has been put in charge of the PTF. We believe that he has more information that we may not have. So, if he comes out to say that the COVID-19 surge is not unconnected with the opening of certain public places, we cannot dispute that.
“Council will readily, if it comes to that shut or advise all organisations that it superintends over including mosque, to shut down.
“At the first surge, we had total lockdown. The national mosque was shut down. Other places of worship were also shut down. I was the chairperson of the monitoring committee to ensure that places where Muslims worship were under the protocol of COVID-19.
“We agree with Boss Mustapha and we will abide with any decision reached therein.”