Controversy is trailing the invitation of some Islamic clerics for Iftar (fast breaking) at the Government House, Ibadan, on Wednesday by Governor Seyi Makinde, despite the ban on social gatherings by the Federal Government to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Mr Makinde will host the gathering of alfas and imams from 5 p.m on Wednesday, his Chief Press Secretary, Taiwo Adisa, confirmed to our correspondent.
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Government placed ban on social gatherings, including religious activities. In some states, violators have been made to face the law.
“Notwithstanding the fact that he is a Christian, the state governor will today host some Islamic clerics. He had been doing this even in his individual capacity (before becoming governor).
“It’s usually held under the platform of his Omituntun Agenda. He is inviting the same set of Imams that he had been inviting before now,” Mr Adisa said.
The governor’s aide said the event would not expose the gathering to the virus.
“Even if they are more than 10, the fact remains that they always observe social distancing. Press conferences in the White House hold everyday and the Presidential Taskforce in Abuja as well. They are usually more than 10,” Mr Adisa said. He said the virus spreads only when people are close.
One of the invited clerics, who spoke under anonymity, told PREMIUM TIMES the arrangement for the event would ensure that social distancing is observed.
But a group, the Joint Action Committee for the Preservation of the Rights and Honours of Imams, has called on the clerics not to honour the governor.
According to a statement by its coordinator, Abu Muhammad, the intended gathering is a violation of the law.
“This group is not holding brief for the Federal Government, neither is it acting as the mouthpiece of the NCDC. We, however, view with dismay and indignation the non-statesmanlike and non-exemplary conduct of the state governor who in spite of the existence of the pandemic has the audacity to organise an IFTAR for the League of Imams and Alfas in Oyo State.
“In accordance with the dictate of the Shariah to obey the highest constituted authority, we as Muslims do not want our revered Imams and Alfas to attend such IFTAR in contravention of Federal government directives and also for fear of any of our Imams contracting the coronavirus and thereby transmitting it to the members of their families and congregation.
“We hereby ask our Imams and Alfas who have been invited to the organised Iftar to boycott it. Some of the scholars and leaders we have contacted cited two reasons why the IFTAR should be put on hold. They cited the ravaging pandemic COVID 19 as one of the reasons. When the Imams and alfas are brought together, it will be very difficult to practice or enforce social distancing and that will be a violation of the federal government and NCDC directives.”
The group advised all invited persons to stay at home in their own interest.
“We equally advise the Governor of Oyo State, Engr Makinde not to always set a bad precedence by being the only governor that organised a rally during the pandemic and also plans to organise IFTAR during the lockdown. If any of the attendees Imams and Alfas contract COVID-19 after the gathering, then the Oyo State Governor should be held accountable.”
A scholar, Ishaq Lawal, also noted that such gatherings at this time should not be encouraged .
“It is pathetic that the state governor is the person flouting orders. This is an offence against a higher authority which is the Federal government. I hope the governor can shun this act and also the Alfas,” Mr Lawal said.
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