Lagos State Government has commended religious leaders in the State for their cooperation and involvement in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the cooperation received from the leaders of the two major religious groups, especially in the area of zero-congregational gathering, assisted in lowering the curve of the pandemic.
The Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Elegushi gave the commendation today at a Ministerial Press briefing commemorating the first year in office of Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu at JJT Park, Alausa, Ikeja.
Speaking on plans to reopen the economy of the State including worship centres, Elegushi pleaded for continued collaboration with the State government and adherence to the government’s directives that would still be presented to the various churches and mosques when they are eventually allowed to gather for their services.
He recalled that the State government and various leaders of the two religious bodies held several meetings, since the index case was recorded, to agree on strategies to adopt in churches and mosques to guarantee the safety of their members.
Elegushi said, “when we got a hint on the current Coronavirus disease across the globe, we immediately went into action by organising a sensitisation and briefing workshop on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at the Chapel of Christ The Light Hall, Alausa. This was followed by another meeting where a joint decision was reached by all religious bodies to reduce the attendance of worshippers to 50 worshipers at a time”.
“In addition to this, our Religious Leaders came together again on 18th March 2020 after reviewing the situation to agree on a total lockdown of Religious Worship Centres across the State before President Muhammad Buhari came up with an announcement locking down Lagos, Ogun and Abuja”, Elegushi noted.
According to him, the timely intervention of the churches and mosques during the period to shut down all religious gatherings, activities and programmes helped in the containment of the virus from escalating beyond control, considering the huge numbers that do gather periodically for religious purposes in the State.
While acknowledging the discomfort which the pandemic brought on both the Muslims and Christians in Lagos, specifically during the Lenten season and the Ramadan period, the Commissioner commended the religious leaders under the umbrella of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, NIREC, for their altruism and for prioritising the wellbeing of their members.
He said: “For a very long time in human history, Christians celebrated the Lenten period and Easter celebrations at home, while our Muslim brothers and sisters were also restricted to observe Sallat at home throughout the Ramadan period, including the Eid-El Fitri celebrations”.
Elegushi attributed the mutual understanding that exists between the State government and the religious groups to a long-term religious harmony and peaceful coexistence, saying that creating rapport is one of the critical functions of the Ministry.
He also acknowledged the cordial relationship between the adherents of the two major religious groups, asserting that the Home Affairs Ministry observed the acrimony and disunity among the faithful and intervened to strengthen the chord between the believers in both groups.
“We pride ourselves in saying that what divides and creates security breach in other parts of the country is what unites us in Lagos State, bearing in mind that Lagos State has become a home to people from across Nigeria and beyond”, the Commissioner restated.