Coronavirus: Agency nabs Abuja pastor for holding Sunday service

Abuja City Gate.
Abuja City Gate.

A team of enforcement officers against public gathering have shut down a church and arrested its lead preacher for holding Sunday service despite warnings against such activities around Abuja, the nation’s capital.

U.U. Uden (Full name unclear) was arrested while holding Sunday service at his Jesus Reign Family Church in the Apo neighbourhood of Abuja.

Officers took him into custody for endangering the health of his followers and other residents by disregarding social distancing measures against the spread of COVID-19, a deadly illness caused by coronavirus.

Authorities in charge of the capital announced last week that all social gatherings, especially at entertainment and worship centres, have been suspended indefinitely in order to contain the virus, which has spread to at least 97 people across the country as of Sunday morning.

Nearly 700,000 people have been infected with 32,000 deaths recorded worldwide since the virus broke out in China last November, prompting countries across the world to impose stringent restrictions on human movement and contact.

Authorities say Mr Uden declined to cease Sunday sermon when officers arrived at his church, but they waited for him outside and arrested him as soon as he was through.

Mr Uden was later taken away by the team.

Abuja police commissioner, Bala Ciroma, said he had heard of the incident but could not immediately comment on it because he had been on a patrol around the capital.

“I have been on patrol around the FCT because we are thinking about the wellbeing of humanity since this crisis started,” the police chief said.

A spokesperson for the federal capital administration could not be reached for comments Sunday afternoon.

Mr Uden’s defiance of official advisory and subsequent arrest came a day after a parish of Believers’ Love World (Christ Embassy) was shut down in Abuja.

The church was holding a wedding programme that was attended by several people when enforcement team arrived, according to a video of the incident circulated on social media.

Social distancing, a practice of keeping a physical distance of at least one metre from one another, has been highly recommended by renowned health experts and institutions as a practical way of minimising the spread of coronavirus.


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