Muslims on Friday deserted mosques in the Federal Capital Territory, as well as in Lagos, Katsina and other states in the country in compliance with the various directives by state governments banning social and religious gatherings.
The Federal Government and many states had banned large gatherings of people in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
One of our correspondents, who moved round in Lagos between 12:noon and 3 pm, observed that worshippers stayed away from various worship centres in obedience to the directive of the state government.
The National Mosque in Abuja and other mosques in the FCT were also deserted on Friday.
One of our correspondents observed that the National Mosque, NASFAT Central Mosque and Ansaruddeen Central Mosque among others were shut during Jumat.
Major mosques in Katsina, Katsina State were also shut on Friday in compliance with the directive of the state government banning large gatherings.
The state Governor Aminu Masari had announced the ban on large gatherings, including Jumat, via his Twitter handle @GovernorMasari on Thursday.
Masari also announced the closure of borders with neighbouring states from 6 am on Saturday (today).
A joint patrol of policemen, soldiers and other security agents was also seen patrolling the streets of Katsina town to ensure compliance with the government’s directive which prohibits large gatherings.
Meanwhile, due to non-compliance with the state government’s directive on restriction on large gatherings, men of the Ogun State Task Force on Friday stormed the Najomo Central Mosque at Adatan, Abeokuta and drove away worshippers who gathered for Jumat.
The worshippers were being led in prayer by the 78-year-old chief imam of the mosque, Moshood Taiwo, when the task force stormed the mosque and dispersed them.
Our correspondent gathered that the Wakilu Muslim of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta states, Sheikh Iskeel Awwal, led the task force to the mosque.
But Taiwo, while being arrested, was said to have engaged the commander of the task force, CSP Toyin Afolaogun, in a heated argument.
He insisted that he did not commit any wrong by conducting Jumat prayer, adding that the worshippers were exercising their rights and praying to God to end coronavirus in the country.
When confronted with the government’s order banning the gathering of over 20 people, he said he had started the prayer with only 15 worshippers and he was not aware when the number increased above the limit.
“I told some worshippers to wait outside and ensure they didn’t allow more people to join us. But, when they heard the prayers I was making for the state and Nigeria, some of them forcefully entered the mosque. I did not violate any rule of the government. I am part of the government,” he defended.
However, Awwal described Taiwo’s action as disobedience to the constituted authority.
To curb the spread of the COVID-19, the Ogun State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria has asked all churches in the state to stop operation immediately.
In a directive which was given on Friday via a statement by the state Chairman of CAN, Bishop Tunde Akin-Akinsanya, the order was with immediate effect.
The bishop had initially on March 19 directed churches in the state to reduce their worshippers to what he described as “the nearest minimum.”
But in a statement on Friday, Akin-Akinsaya ordered immediate and total shutdown of all churches in the state.
The statement read in part, “As a follow-up to our press release of March 19 in respect of the coronavirus pandemic and consequent upon our continued finding on the disease, the Ogun chapter of CAN hereby directs that all churches be immediately shut down across the state.”
In a similar manner, the Gombe State Governor Inuwa Yahaya has directed that all public gatherings be suspended till further notice.
Yahaya stated this on Friday at a press briefing at the Banquet Hall of the Government House.
He said, “All social gatherings be suspended till further notice. Interstate travels by public and private vehicles will be suspended effective from 12 am on Sunday, March 29, 2020.
“Effective from Saturday (today), markets will be closed. We will ensure everyone embraces the principle of social distancing. We shall only allow those who sell essential commodities like food and medicine.”