By Bode Olushegun
Borno Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, is considering holding Eid prayer across the state amid COVID-19.
The governor, on Wednesday directed the state’s COVID-19 response team, headed by the Deputy Governor, Umar Kadafur, to consult the Shehu of Borno and subsequently host a meeting with the Imam Idaini of Borno and all Imams of Eid prayer grounds in the metropolis, discussing critically the possibility of allowing Eid prayers across the state under strict preventive measures.
A statement by the Governor’s Special Adviser on Public Relations and Strategy on Wednesday revealed his boss’s directive.
The statement read in part: “Coronavirus is no doubt a dangerous disease and efforts to prevent it must be sustained. In so doing, however, we have to harmonize our obligation in fighting the virus with the needs of those who represent, especially on highly sensitive issues of religion, in which citizens act with motivations that are greater than fears.
“Borno has, in the last couple of years, been operating under unusual circumstances. We have had instances in which citizens defy the fear of Boko Haram for long treks to Eid grounds even when government restricts vehicular movement. There are instances in which citizens insist on return to same worship places within days of attack by suicide attackers. It is similar to the motivation for survival, which drives citizens all over the country, to defy COVID-19 fears and converge in markets in search of food and other basics.
“Citizens’ motivations for survival, and religion are divinely strong and can’t be ignored by government. We will pay attention to the needs of our citizens, but we will do so with the highest sense of responsibility.”
The governor said: “Given the circumstance, I am directing members of our dedicated COVID-19 response team, chaired by His Excellency, the Deputy Governor, to consult with His Eminence, the Shehu of Borno, to hold a meeting that should be attended by the Imam Idaini of Borno and Imams of Eid grounds in the metropolis, relevant security agencies and volunteers, to critically discuss the possibility or otherwise of allowing Eids to hold under strict conditions that should aim not only to prevent the spread of coronavirus but also of insurgent attacks.”
He ordered that: “Discussions should be made on the use of face masks to be very strictly enforced with hand sanitizers administered at restricted entry points.”
He said: “Consideration may also be given on whether it is necessary to, as a matter of one-off situation, create additional prayer grounds or use of some Friday mosques, that would make it easier to have less crowds at every Eid-ground so as to make social distancing more feasible.”
The Governor however said notwithstanding his recommendation, he will be more than willing to accept whatever outcome, including a contrary one, if that is reached between the response team and the Imams.