The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called on the Nigerian government to strictly enforce compliance with all COVID-19 safety protocols put in place to limit the spread of the virus.
The president of the association, Samson Ayokunle, made the call during the sensitisation meeting on COVID-19 vaccine introduction for Christian Leaders and Scholars in Abuja on Tuesday.
“I am saying it with everything within me that enforcement is key. We need drastic and tough enforcement of the law,” Mr Ayokunle said.
He said the association endorses the COVID-19 Executive Order signed by President Muhammadu Buhari that makes safety protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing mandatory across the country.
Mr Ayokunle said lots of Christians have died from coronavirus and it is reckless to say the virus does not exist.
“It is not good to borrow reckless confidence that COVID-19 is not existing. We have seen Christians that have died,” he said.
The cleric appealed to Christians in Nigeria to cooperate with the government to succeed in curtailing the spread of the virus which has claimed millions of lives globally.
The meeting, organised by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), was aimed at sensitizing religious leaders on the need to fully accept the COVID-19 vaccines when they finally arrive in the country.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the agency recently held a sensitisation programme for Islamic leaders in Nigeria.
With the second wave of coronavirus pandemic spreading fast, countries across the globe are already securing and administering vaccines for their citizens.
Sensitisation is also ongoing amidst fears that many may not accept the vaccine due to doubts of safety, religious beliefs, amongst other factors.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported plans by the government to get President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and other dignitaries to take the vaccines on live television when it finally gets to the country.
The Nigerian government said it will receive at least 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech approved COVID-19 vaccines by February through COVAX, an initiative run by the vaccine alliance, GAVI, to ensure equitable access to vaccine.
It also said the country is expecting ‘free’ 42 million doses of vaccines in the second phase through the COVAX facility.
These vaccines will, however, cover only about 20 per cent of Nigeria’s over 200 million estimated population.
Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, recently said efforts are ongoing to secure 10 million more doses of the viral vector vaccines.
In his remarks, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, urged Christian leaders to continue with the high level of compliance to COVID-19 protocols as observed in churches across the country.
He said the virus is no respecter of persons and has affected every group of persons in the society including the religious institution.
“This is why we must come together as one people with one voice to use our influence to promote both the non-pharmaceutical preventive measures and vaccination,” he said.
He said religious rulers are highly revered in the society; hence the need to leverage on this divine influence to instil wisdom in the people.
“Be rest assured the Nigerian Government seeks to protect all her citizens and would do her maximum best to ensure the vaccines provided are safe, verified and tested,” Mr Mustapha said.
The presidency had warned against further violations of the safety protocols to avert fresh lockdown.
In his welcome address, the Executive Director of NPHCDA, Faisal Shuaib, noted that evidence from previous vaccinations shows that faith leaders play a critical role in vaccine rollout.
According to him “they work in communities to involve them in the process, ensuring that they are distributed fairly and fully accepted.”
Mr Shuaib, however, urged religious leaders to challenge inaccurate and harmful messages that could threaten the effective public health response to the pandemic.
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