The Bauchi State House of Assembly was on Wednesday divided on the decision of the state government to ban religious activities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Following the emergence of COVID-19 in the state, Governor Bala Mohammed had in a statewide broadcast declared a partial shut down of Bauchi with major restrictions placed on markets and places of worship.
Under the COVID-19 restriction order, residents are banned from conducting the weekly Friday prayers as well as Sunday church services.
The ban does not ban the regular five daily prayers even though the government had advised residents to observe social distancing by praying in less crowded places.
Muslims in the state have also been banned from conducting the regular Ramadan public sermons that usually attract large crowds in various mosques.
Though these restrictive orders, especially on Friday congregational prayers, was followed through, there were few cases of violation.
It, however, became an issue of major debate during the plenary session at the assembly on Wednesday.
The majority of the state lawmakers faulted the state government’s decision while others supported it.
A summary of proceedings of Bauchi State House of Assembly’s Wednesday plenary obtained by PREMIUM TIMES revealed how unhappy many of the lawmakers were with the ban.
Tijjani Aliyu of Azare/Madangala narrated how his local government, Katagum, “has the highest number of people infected with the virus in the state” which warranted government’s total lockdown of the local government as well as Giade and Zaki LGAs.
He called on all citizens to key into the fight against the disease, while insisting that the House “must work hand in hand with the executive arm to protect the citizens.”
However, Dan’umma Bello of Giade constituency said “people should be allowed to go and pray Juma’at prayers on Fridays and church service on Sunday.”
According to the lawmaker, “there is a need to go spiritual to end COVID-19 and the best way to do that is to allow people to observe Juma’ah prayers and church services.”
Jamilu Dahiru of Bauchi central constituency suggested the lawmakers “spare some minutes to observe special prayer for Bauchi State and the country at large so that Almighty Allah will heal all infected persons and end the pandemic.”
He lamented the highhandedness of some security agents in the enforcement of lockdown order.
Another lawmaker, Yusuf Dadiye of Ganjuwa west constituency, said all will “account for all their deeds and actions on the day of judgment.”
He also frowned at the ban of Juma’ah prayers and church services in the state, an action he said “has mortified his constituents.”
“Every day our constituents are calling us to inquire whether they can go to Jumu’ah mosques and churches,” he said.
Mr Dadiye said the best way to manage community spread of COVID-19 is for “government to increase the number of mosques for Juma’ah prayers so that people will not congest the existing mosques.”
He also suggested that after reopening the mosque government should “order for strict compliance to the guidelines of fighting the disease in all Juma’ah mosques and churches.”
Baballe Dambam of Dambam/Jalam/Dagauda constituency also called for “a lift on the ban of Jumu’ah prayers.”
He said he and his constituents “are of the view that the solution to COVID-19 is abandoned by closing Juma’ah mosques where the solution resides.”
Wakili Nakwada of Bogoro constituency said “there is no required synergy between the legislative arm and executive arm in fighting the disease in Bauchi State.”
He also faulted the government for not including a representation of the State Assembly “in most of the committees set up by the government on COVID-19.”
Bakoji Bobbo of Chiroma constituency, his constituents “are very much concerned about the banning of Jumu’ah prayers.”
He said way out was “opening of Jumu’ah mosques and the increase of the number of mosques for the prayers to reduce congestion.”
Other lawmakers then took turns to either support the ban, oppose it or decry its effectiveness.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the house, Abubakar Suleiman, said the house “had adopted the suggestions and opinions of the members”.
He added that “all the resolutions be communicated to the executive arm for consideration.”