Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Benue State Government on Saturday, rescinded on its decision to reopen worship centres, markets and public places.
Recall that only last Thursday, the state government had announced the lifting of ban on all activities and directed all worship centers, markets and other public activities to reopen.
But by Saturday morning while churches were making arrangements for reopening on Sunday and the Muslim faithful were also planning to celebrate their Eid Fitir in a grand style, the state government threw the bombshell that all should revert back to the former status quo.
Governor Samuel Ortom who announced this while briefing newsmen at the Government House in Makurdi, said Benue had decided to accept the advice of the Federal Government and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as well as other religious bodies against reopening of worship centres and other public places.
Ortom added that since Benue is part of the Nigerian Federation, it is working in collaboration with relevant federal agencies including the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and would not want to be seen as working at variance with them.
“We are a component part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and we appreciate the fact that the Federal Government is the custodian of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, and they are informed about what is going on, and so we must subject ourselves to their decision in accordance with laws of the land.
“We do not want to endanger the lives of our people. In the event of any challenge concerning this pandemic, the next port of call will be the Federal Government. So, we cannot kick against their advice. We feel that the advice is genuine. If we took a decision and we have this kind of advice that is genuine and meant to support the health of our people, we have no reason whatsoever to go ahead with the decision we earlier took.
“I appreciate Benue people. I thank them. I also appreciate the concern of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Benue State chapter and the Muslim community; but you cannot attend church service or mosque when you are dead so we will secure lives first.
“Therefore, on behalf of the State Executive Council, I hereby reverse the lifting of ban on churches and mosques services/prayers. We have reversed to the status quo where churches, mosques and other public places like markets were closed.
“There will be no church services or mosque prayers where people will gather. Same restrictions cover burials, weddings and other public gatherings which number must not exceed 30 persons as we said earlier. And we will require everyone to appreciate the fact that Coronavirus is real and deadly and there is no cure yet, but there are preventive measures put in place by health experts.
“We advise our people to strictly observe COVID-19 protocol such as washing of hands with soap, wearing of face masks, use of alcohol based hand sanitizers and social distancing. We encourage our people to visit Federal Medical Centre and Benue State University Teaching Hospital anytime they notice symptoms.
“We want to call on Benue people to understand with us. This is a serious matter and we must not take things for granted. We will continue to work with the Federal Government to see when it will be convenient to relax the lockdown,” he stated.
Also at the briefing, Governor Ortom announced that the third COVID-19 case in the state, Mrs. Rebecca Apedzan a former Commissioner and House of Representatives member had tested negative to the virus and would be discharged today (Saturday).