Beifoh Osewele, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Fred Ezeh, Abuja, David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi, Aloysius Attah, Onitsha, Obinna Odogwu, Awka
For the first time in over a century, millions of Christians in Nigeria, yesterday, marked Easter in an unusual manner, as they either kept indoors or worshipped online, in compliance with the lockdown directives by the state and federal governments, as part of measures to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Reports from across the country showed that the faithful kept the social distance recommendation.
In a show of leadership by example, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo took the lead as he avoided congregation settings and instead preached to online audience in a “Resurrection service.”
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, through his Twitter handle @akandeoj, tweeted: “VP preached today for the Aso Villa Online Resurrection Sunday service & title of the message: Criminals on the Cross. Summary: Jesus has paid the price for the sins of the entire world and even a condemned criminal made it with Jesus to Paradise. Inspiring message of redemption.”
Since the lockdown, the Vice President and his family have joined Aso Villa Chapel’s online Sunday service. In the first service, he was joined by some of his aides at his residence in compliance with social distancing rules as the country continues to fight the spread of COVID-19.
In Enugu, churches like St. Paul’s Catholic Church Awkunanaw, Emmanuel Anglican Church, Achara Layout, some Pentecostal churches on Agbani Road, Cathedral Church of Good Shepherd, Independence Layout, Wesley Cathedral, Uwani, Holy Ghost Cathedral, the Living Faith Church, Presidential Road, and the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Abakaliki Road, were deserted.
In Ogun and Kwara states, churches remained shut. A visit to Sabo-Oke and Taiwo Isale in Ilorin showed that the worship places were deserted and their gates locked.
Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on April 9 ordered a complete lockdown of the 16 local government areas as a result of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kwara.
When our reporters visited the zonal headquarter of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church (C&S), on Muritala Muhammed Road, the three churches in the premises were locked.
No worshiper was around the premises, despite being an Easter Sunday usually celebrated with fanfare by the C&S.
Attempts to speak with a clergyman in the church were futile as the place was completely deserted, not even the gatemen were available.
The situation was the same at Saint Barnabas Cathedral (Anglican Communion) and African Church Cathedral in Maraba, as their gates were shut.
A church member at the African Church Cathedral confirmed that the bishop has directed all members of the church to observe the Easter service in their various homes.
At the Catholic Cathedral Church in Taiwo Isale, a young priest, who did not disclose his name, said there was no Easter service in the church. He said the Diocesan Bishop had directed all the parish priests to observe the Easter Sunday service in their homes with their families.
Also, at the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) in Taiwo Oke, no church service was held.
President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Augustine Akubueze, in his Easter message, said history would forever remember the Easter of 2020, as COVID-19 marred the celebrations globally.
“The COVID-19 pandemic took everyone by surprise and caught the world off-guard. Consequently, the celebration of Easter this year was devoid of usual pomp and pageantry. We celebrate Easter this year amid uncertainties. But history will forever remember the year 2020. We began the year with so much joy and expectations. No one knew or planned for the current health crisis bedevilling our world.
“However, hope is at the heart of the resurrection message. Many followers of Christ thought it was over with Christ. Also, many concluded that it was over with economic recovery, equitable wealth for all, security of lives and property, justice for all, but hope has come. Despite all these, I say, for the risen Lord, nothing is impossible. Let us gradually effect changes in the places we work and live. Let’s develop patience, virtue that is needed, if we truly trust in God. We must know that God’s time is always the best. Whereas humans want quick fix and immediate solution to difficulties, our God operates on a higher and better timing than ours.
“We know that, to share in the pains of others is a demonstration of true love. At this difficult and challenging moment, we must endeavour to remember the poor, the needy, the widows and widowers and try to provide material and financial aids for them to join in the celebration.
“We should also not forget to pray for our frontline medical personnel who are involved in the fight against COVID-19 scourge for God’s protection and guidance. Also, we pray for all who have been infected, for God’s healing and restoration. Finally, for all who have lost loved ones, we pray for consolation and eternal rest for all who have died,” he said.