Ortom makes a U-turn, orders closure of churches, mosques

The Benue State Government on Saturday  reversed its decision to reopen worship centres and  markets.

Governor  Samuel Ortom on Thursday lifted a ban on church and mosque activities.

He also directed that markets should be opened but  people  should  maintain social distancing.

However,   briefing journalists at Government House,  Makurdi, Ortom directed the closure of worship centres,  saying the directive was based on the   Federal Government’s advice  to  the Christian Association of Nigeria and other religious bodies against reopening worship centres and other public places.

He said, “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 the 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 had 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 took earlier.

“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 a church  or mosque service when you are dead. So we will secure life first.

“Therefore, on behalf of the State Executive Council, I hereby reverse the lifting of the ban on churches and mosques services/prayers.”

Ortom announced that a  former commissioner in the state, the state’s  third COVID-19 case,   had tested negative for  the virus and would be discharged today.

Meanwhile, the  Chairman of Sokoto State Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Muhammed Inname, has told the people of the state, especially the Muslim Ummah, to adhere  to  the position taken by  the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, and others on the need to observe the Eid-Fitr prayers in compliance with safety protocols.

The chairman,  who is also the state Commissioner for Health,  at a press conference  stressed the importance of   social distancing, use of face masks and constant use of sanitisers  during the festive period.

Inname disclosed that the  state in collaboration with  the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control,World Health Organisation and others had  been working to stop  the spread of the virus in the state.

He said, “Our innovative approach of the 3Ts –Trace, Test and Treat –has been effective in aligning the various stages of identification.

“As of Friday, Sokoto State has increased its number of tests from 589 to 609,  with all  20  tests returning negative.

“Also, the number of positive case remains 116. The number of fatalities stands at 13.”

The  negative cases also increased to 617 from 486, while the number of people discharged stands at 90.

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