Islamic clerics arrested for holding Jumat service amidst coronavirus lockdown

Mosque in Offa where the clerics were arrested.
Mosque in Offa where the clerics were arrested.

Operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) on Friday arrested two Islamic clerics in Offa, Kwara State, for defying the coronavirus lockdown order.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Kwara government placed a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

Also, markets for non-essential commodities and places of worship were shut down in a bid to curb the spread of the disease.

However, on Friday, the clerics held a Jumat service in a mosque situated at Lamodi area, Adeleke Road, in Offa with scores of worshippers in attendance.

Our correspondent, who witnessed the arrest, observed that the law enforcement agents stormed the mosque vicinity at about 1 p.m. when they had concluded the prayers.

The presence of the operatives caused an uproar as many of the congregation members who were close to the vicinity took to their heels.

The two top clerics were arrested and whisked away in the NSCDC’s vehicle afterward.

This paper gathered that the mosque also flouted the government rules by congregating for Jumat service last Friday.

It is not clear if the clerics would be prosecuted as the Kwara directive was not a law passed by the state assembly. Some lawyers have also argued that state governors lack the legal authority to order residents to stay at home without an enabling law.

However, many state governments in Nigeria placed a ban on public gatherings based on health expert advice to check the spread of COVID-19.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how a similar situation in Lagos led to the shutdown of a mosque in Agege after worshippers congregated for prayers and later allegedly attacked members of a government task force that arrived to enforce the lockdown order.

Experts and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have on several occasions advised that people should stay away from public gatherings.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Lagos residents threaten to protest if government fails to provide lockdown palliative

Citing the reason for social distancing, WHO says “When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.”

Apart from banning large public gatherings in the state, Kwara State on Tuesday announced the immediate closure of its boundaries with neighbouring states.

The deputy governor and Chairman of the Kwara State Technical Committee on COVID-19, Kayode Alabi, also made known the decision to fumigate markets and other public places.

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As at the time of filing this report, Nigeria has confirmed 190 cases of the pandemic across 12 states.

Lagos has 98 cases, followed by FCT – 38, Osun – 20, Oyo – 8, Akwa Ibom – 5, Ogun – 4, Edo- 4, Kaduna – 4, Bauchi – 3, Enugu – 2, and Ekiti – 2. Rivers and Benue have one case each.

President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier ordered a total lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and Abuja for 14 days.

He made the announcement during his nationwide broadcast on Sunday.

Coronavirus factsheet


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