Residents of Rivers State especially Port Harcourt have expressed concerns over the new directive by the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, permitting large religious gatherings to celebrate the Easter amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
Wike in a statewide broadcast temporarily relaxed the restrictions on large religious gatherings directing Muslims to observe their Juma’at prayers and Christians to worship in full congregations on Sunday.
Rivers has two confirmed cases of COVID-19 based on statistics published by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The governor said: “In the spirit of Easter, therefore, and after a careful review of the state of COVID-19 situation in our state, all Moslem faithful should observe Juma’at prayers in their mosques or prayer grounds throughout the State and pray for the peace, forgiveness and the blessings of Allah upon the State.
“All Christians should have Easter Church Services with their full congregation and pray to God to forgive us of our sins, continue to intervene in our affairs and protect the State and our people from the Coronavirus”.
The governor said the normal restrictions on large religious gathering to ensure social distancing would resume after the Easter period.
But investigations revealed that residents were divided over the decision of the governor to permit large gathering despite the increasing cases of Coronavirus in the country including the recent death of one of the patients in Delta State.
While commending Wike for his actions so far to protect the people of the state, some of the residents lamented that the governor’s period of grace to celebrate Easter could endanger the state and reverse all the gains of his preventable measures.
Some of them said despite the window period granted by the governor, they would not endanger their lives attending crowded worship at their churches on Sunday.
Home Mmecha, who lives in Port Harcourt, said identifying with any large gathering at the church would reverse all his benefits of staying at home for many days.
He said: “As an individual, I will worship right inside my bedroom. I can’t afford to risk my life at the expense of worshipping in the congregation. It serves no meaning after spending good numbers of days following the mandatory stay-at-home exercise”.
Also, another resident, who identified himself as Femi appealed to the governor to rescind his decision in the interest of his love for Rivers State.
“If power could not protect Johnson nor royalty protect Prince Charles, then, when the heaven falls it will be on us all. Please, plead with our governor; I know he loves Rivers so passionately, to rescind this decision”.
Also, Tekena Alalibo insisted that Wike’s decision should be reconsidered to avoid wasting all sacrifices made so far during the lockdown.
He said: “I am really confused here. If we don’t have COVID-19 here, let the government say so and free all to go about their hustle. We opened the market for five hours in two days and shut down.
“Now we open worship place for four days losing all the gains of two weeks lockdown. I heard that during the Spanish flu in 1920s churches, schools, markets were shut down for weeks.
“Must we do Easter this 2020? We still have 1000s of Easter in future. If there’s no Coronavirus, let the government say it, and we the people will not even bother about it. Governor this makes no sense. We have made sacrifices in the last days. Let’s not waste all that in the name of Easter. Maybe COVID-19 has signed a ceasefire agreement for four days to resume on Tuesday”.
But others said the governor should be given the benefit of the doubt since he had information no available to members of the public.
“He has been the one taking initiatives and proactive steps to protect us from this pandemic. If he relaxes some of his restrictions, we should as well trust and believe him because he is the governor and he has information not available to us,” a church official, who identified himself as Samuel said.