COVID--19: Benue Governor, Ortom cancels plans to re-open churches, mosques

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on Saturday said it will no longer push for the re-opening of worship places and market.

The government had on Thursday said it would commence the re-opening of worship centres and markets, which have been closed for close to two months due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

It also directed workers on grade levels one to 12 asked to stay at home about two months ago to resume work on June 1, 2020 but advised that they always wear face mask and maintain social distancing as they go to work.

The reversal, governor Ortom said, was premised on the federal government’s advice to states to be cautious about restarting economic and social activities.

He also signed an executive order to ensure the prosecution of anyone caught violating the safety measures put in place to safeguard the health and protection of Benue people from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Announcing the reversal of the decision on Saturday in Makurdi, Governor Ortom said, “we have reviewed the relax of lockdown we did last Thursday. Since then we heard the federal government advise us against the reopening of churches, mosques, and public gatherings.

“The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Jama’atu Nasir Islam has all given their backing to the federal government that it will be too early and premature for us to reopen the churches and mosques and to allow public gathering and to reopen market places. 

“We are a component of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and appreciate the fact that the federal government is the custodian of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC and of course they are more informed than we are and we must subject ourselves to the decisions that are in accordance with the laws of this land.

“We do not want to endanger our people and in the event of any challenge concerning this pandemic the point to call upon is the federal government. So we cannot kick against their advice.

“We have seen that the advice is genuine, our decision is premature and if we took a decision and we have this kind of genuine advice that is meant to support the health of our people we have no reason whatsoever to go ahead with the decision we took.

“So I appreciate Benue people, I appreciate the concern of the CAN Benue state chapter, the Muslim community that has been mounting pressure that churches, mosques, markets, and others be reopened. But you cannot attend church service or mosque or even market when you are dead.

“On behalf of the State Executive Council I hereby announce a reversal of the lifting. We will work closely with the federal government to know when it is convenient to relax the lockdown, as for now we are back to where we were before last Thursday,” he added.

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