Fred Itua, Abuja
Some senators and members of the House of Representatives are yet to move into their offices nearly two weeks after the two chambers resumed following the relaxation of the lockdown imposed on Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Secretaries and office assistants to lawmakers who are usually in custody of keys and other office utilities have been barred from coming into the National Assembly as part of measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the assembly complex.
Frustrated by the development, some lawmakers only resume at the chamber and exit as soon as plenary is over.
It is unclear when the partial lockdown in the National Assembly would be lifted by the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Omolori.
It was, however, observed that the COVID-19 guidelines set by the National Assembly has not been strictly adhered to by stakeholders. For instance, while senators and members of the House of Representatives are religiously adhering to the guidelines, senior staff of the National Assembly are flouting the directives.
In its guidelines, Omolori, had insisted that “the Secretary, Health Services and Secretary, Procurement, Estate and Works are to provide hand sanitisers and all necessary protective gears at all strategic points. All staff on duty should observe social distancing and other NCDC’s directives in addition to remaining in their offices, while maximising the use of intercom, telephone and ICT platforms for communication.”
Daily Sun observed that there were no thermometer guns at major entry points into the complex. Body temperature of lawmakers and other selected staff cleared to come to work are thereby not checked.
At the alternative entrance into the two chambers, there were no hand sanitisers, running water for hand washing and other COVID-19 health and safety requirements. It was also observed that rest rooms in the Senate Wing lacked hand washing soaps, while cleaners who until the outbreak were available to keep the rest rooms clean were seldom around.
Aside the lawmakers, many staff and other essential workers in the National Assembly were seen not using their face masks once they gained access into the building in line with the guidelines.
Meanwhile, three pastors of some Pentecostal churches in Abuja, yesterday, denied their ministries and members after operatives of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Ministerial Enforcement Team made an attempt to arrest them for violating the ban on congregational worship.
The pastors, who had partitioned a mountain at the Federal Housing area of Lugbe District, traded words and even denied stewardship of the large crowd met worshipping at the hilltop.
The pastors are Ibitoye Kayode of the Liberty Faith Gospel Church, Joshua Olaniru of Liberty Gate Ministry and Vitalis Udeazi of Dominion Chapel.
Trouble started when the enforcement team came to the area following a tip off, but found it difficult to identify worshippers and their leaders.
After a brief interrogation, the three pastors were identified, despite the fact that one of them struggled to conceal his identity.
He said none of his members was present at the time the taskforce arrived, but this did not go down well with the other pastors who protested that he was one of them.
Luck, however, ran out on him when some members pointed him out as their pastor even as he maintained that they were his prayer members.
Although, Joshua Olaniru of Liberty Gate Ministry, argued that he was not among those holding worship session, a resident of the community availed the taskforce a video clip which showed the cleric holding a worship session.
Chairman of the taskforce, Attah Ikharo asked: “Why are you all denying these large groups of worshippers? No one among you agreed that anyone came to worship with them even when they turned out in large numbers. One of you even went ahead to deny being a pastor.”
In another development, Pastor Effiong Bassey of the Holiness Revival Ministry Church, Karamajiji has been apprehended for holding a church service to mark the 60th birthday of a retired military colonel, P.E Ebong who left the military in 2015.
Addressing the pastor , Attah said: “You cannot hold a worship service in defiance of the directives of the Commander in Chief just to mark the 60th birthday of a retired colonel. Even for a serving colonel it is very wrong. You have to come with us and explain it to the magistrate at the mobile court.”
The pastors were consequently arraigned before a Mobile Court presided over by Magistrate Akonni who found them guilty and fined them N5,000 each in addition to three hours of community service.