COVID-19: Lagos, Oyo govts direct churches, mosques to stay shut

The Lagos State Government on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of opening churches and mosques across the state now.

The Federal Government had on Monday lifted the ban on mosques and churches in the country based on guidelines and protocols agreed with state governments.

But the state government on Tuesday said opening churches and mosques might not occur now due to the peculiar nature of Lagos State.

Prince Anofiu Elegushi, Commissioner for Home Affairs, while fielding questions from newsmen at a Ministerial briefing said the possibility of reopening churches and mosques in the state had been ruled out.

“Even before the pronouncement by Federal Government, we have been having meeting with the religious leaders, we even have one with Safety Commission, looking at the possibility of reopening of religious houses.

‘’We also had one with the leaders of the two faith and I want to tell you categorically that at that meeting, possibility of reopening religious houses was ruled out totally.

‘’They claimed that they cannot take such responsibility of ensuring that only 20 or 50 people are praying behind them. Like an Imam said, he doesn’t know what is going on at the back immediately he is leading a prayer. He said if more than 20 or 50 people are staying at his back he was not going to take responsibility for their presence.

‘’So in the meeting, we ruled out in totality the issue of reopening the religious houses until we have a clear coast for us to do so. The Federal Government mentioned it, but it never ruled out the state in achieving that pronouncement, so all states will have to look at possibility of doing so in their respective states.” Elegushi said.

He added: “We all know Lagos is still having more figures. So definitely, that will speak to our decision. But the governor of the state will come out with further directives. We will call the two faith together and discuss the pronouncement and I can assure you that they themselves will tell us not to do it.”

Elegushi also said the government had started the process of automating the processing of money lending licenses, revealing that since the commencement of the process few months ago, it had received 207 applications out of which approvals was granted for 184 applicants.

He explained that the decision to automate the process of money lending licenses in the State was to ensure a hitch-free renewal and fresh applications by prospective applicants.

Elegushi reported that only one application had so far been declined by the Ministry while 22 applications were currently being reviewed, stressing that the initiative would henceforth guarantee easy access to loan opportunities to residents of the State and ultimately provide employment for the youths.

According to him, “the initiative is cost effective for grassroots financing and the requirements are simple and straightforward. The forms are available and the processes are very friendly. In addition, the automation of the money lending processes would help address several issues of trust that had overtime bedevilled the practitioners.”

Elegushi described the various Money Lenders across the State as the mini-micro economic stimulants that created jobs, generate wealth, alleviate poverty and widens the tax net, thereby increasing the socio-economic status of the State through the provision of enabling environment for small scale business and entrepreneurship.

He recalled that prior to the automation of the money lending processes; the Ministry had earlier held Stakeholders’ Forum on the need to examine the laws guiding the activities of money lenders in the State in order to make members of the public repose more confidence in the practitioners.

The commissioner reiterated the support of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in creating an enabling environment for easy loan accessibility to the citizens with emphasis on pragmatic strategies for achieving positive and cost effective results in grassroots financing which will invariably help in achieving the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda in which ‘Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy’ can become a reality.

While saying that money lender practitioners constituted key players in small and medium enterprises and are promoters of economic growth and prosperity of the State, the Commissioner expressed the hope that other practitioners in the business of money lending would key into the initiative by the government.

Also, the Oyo State COVID-19 Taskforce has said it would not relax the ban on religious activities and the curfew imposed as a result of the pandemic.

A statement issued in Ibadan, on Tuesday, by Mr Taiwo Adisa, Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Seyi Makinde, confirmed that the Taskforce, chaired by the governor, made its position public after a two-hour online meeting on Tuesday evening.

Adisa said the taskforce was still evaluating the situation in the state and would not be able to follow the decision by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, which relaxed the ban on religious gathering and the curfew.

He explained that the position was informed by the ongoing risk, situation analysis being undertaken by a team of experts.

“The Oyo state COVID-19 Taskforce wishes to alert the public that the ban on religious gathering remains in force in the state.

” The 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew earlier imposed in the state as a result of the ravaging pandemic, will also remain in force until further notice.

“This is because the taskforce is awaiting a risk, situation analysis report by a team of experts, earlier commissioned to do so.

“The report is expected at the end of the week and it is only after the report has been analysed by the taskforce that it can be in a position to make further clarifications,” he said.

He indicated that the Taskforce would always make its decisions in relation to the behavioural patterns of the coronavirus in its domain.

He said the body would rely on science, logic and data; and that the state was leaving no stone unturned in curtailing the spread of the virus.

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