…Lagos Wields Big Stick, to Fine Violators N500,000, FCT to Shut Worship Centres that Flout Protocol State Governments across the country appear divided on the holding of crossover services, usually held by Churches and Christian adherents to herald the New Year. Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 protocol and the 12 midnight to 4am curfew
…Lagos Wields Big Stick, to Fine Violators N500,000, FCT to Shut Worship Centres that Flout Protocol
State Governments across the country appear divided on the holding of crossover services, usually held by Churches and Christian adherents to herald the New Year. Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 protocol and the 12 midnight to 4am curfew imposed by the Federal Government, to check the spread of the pandemic which is said to be manifesting the second phase, they’ve been singing varied tunes.
For Lagos residents who have been told to end all crossover service s by 11am, the government has dangled a N500,000 fine for any violators of the 12 am to 4 am curfew imposed by the Federal Government and other protocols.
The government also emphasised that all Churches in the state must respect the curfew in place and avoid physical crossover services and large gatherings on December 31, 2020.
Explaining the newly imposed fine on violators, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso in an interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday said: “If you flout any of these rules, you can be fined. You will be taken to court and the magistrate will decide on the sanction. The fine can be between N20,000 and N500,000. It depends on the magistrate’s discretion.
“But it is not just about punishing people. People are being advised to take responsibility. The regulations were rolled out as an advisory and people have been obeying while people who have disobeyed have faced the consequences.”
The commissioner, however, expressed optimism that religious leaders in the state would comply with the directive of the government on the crossover services.
Omotoso said, “With what we have been seeing, I don’t think churches will flout the protocols. CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) is in agreement with the government. Covid cases are going up and everybody is worried. Some of the giant churches have also announced that they won’t be holding physical crossover services.
“The Lagos State Government has also told them that there is a curfew by midnight to 4am imposed by the Federal Government. Many of the churches have been adjusting their programmes. Churches are well-organised and we believe they will comply.”
Oyo Okays Crossover Service
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, on Wednesday however approved the suspension of the 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. curfew earlier imposed on states by the Federal Government, saying that officials of the State’s Task Force on Covid-19 will ensure strict compliance to the guidelines and advisories during the Yuletide and after.
The Governor, has therefore, directed that religious centres be allowed to hold crossover worship services only in strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols. The Technical Team of the Task Force on COVID-19 had earlier stated that it was ruling out the crossover services in view of the 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. curfew imposed by the Federal Government.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Taiwo Adisa, however, warned that worship centres must adhere strictly to the advisories and guidelines put in place to prevent the spread of the virus in the state.
The statement further indicated that the Governor gave the directives in a brief endorsed by the Chairman of the Technical Team of the COVID-19 Task Force, Prof. Temitope Alonge, which reviewed the earlier pronouncement of the Technical Team and lifted the curfew.
The statement added that other advisories earlier released by the Task Force, including the directive of 50 per cent occupancy for worship and event centres, ban of street carnivals and others, remain in effect.
The statement read : “Following a review of the pronouncement of the Technical Team of the Task Force on COVID-19 in Oyo State on 29th December 2020, His Excellency, the Executive Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, FNSE, has magnanimously directed that the 12 midnight to 4 a.m. curfew be lifted. “The Governor has also warned citizens and residents of Oyo State to ensure strict compliance with the guidelines, protocols and advisories as laid down by the OYO State COVID-19 Task Force aimed at limiting the transmission of the disease in our communities.
“Secondly, he has directed that enforcement of these guidelines and protocols in accordance with the law will be applied as appropriate, enjoining individuals and organizations to comply and by so doing ensure that we all spread the joy of this season and not the virus.”
It will be recalled that the Oyo State Task Force on COVID-19 had, in a communique released on Tuesday, earlier warned individuals, families and corporate organisations in the state to adhere to protocols such as the use of face masks in public places, social distancing and regular washing of hands.
The Task Force had equally reminded event centres on the existing advisory on 50 per cent capacity occupancy for events, while also enforcing the proper use of face masks and handing washing requirements.
It admonished residents of the state, including private healthcare providers and individuals feeling unwell, to access the available testing centres across the 33 local government areas of the state.
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has also urged churches in the territory to strictly adhere to the COVID-19 protocols as they prepare for the crossover night service.
Head, Media and Public Enlightenment of FCT COVID-19 Task Force, Mr Ikaro Attah, gave the advice on Wednesday at a news conference in Abuja.
Attah urged church leaders to obey the government’s directives to avert the spread of COVID-19.
According to him, a combined team of the task force will be going round to monitor compliance during the service.
Attah stressed the need for worshippers to support the decision of the government that would promote the progress and development of the territory.
“As enforcement team that takes directive from FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello and the Commissioner of Police, FCT Command, we are working in collaboration with leaders of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) at all levels and league of Imams.
“We have discussed with religious leaders on the need to obey the COVID-19 protocols, so all those who will be engaging in crossover night worship service must adhere strictly to the guidelines.
“They should put on their face mask, provide washing hand basin as well as keep physical distancing,” he said.
Attah, who said that worship centres should not be overcrowded, asked worshippers to join the programme through online platforms.
“For those who will not comply, we will not overlook them jeopardise the lives of others, those that fail to comply will be brought before the court for prosecution.
“Again, the centre where the protocol is flouted will be shut.
“We appeal to religious leaders and the worshippers to obey the COVID-19 protocols.”
Attah insisted that any worship centre found contravening the COVID-19 protocols would be made to face the wrath of the law.
Axe on 100 Passengers
In a related development, the Federal Government has suspended the passports of 100 in-bound airline passengers who failed to take the second test of COVID-19 after arriving in the country.
Mr Boss Mustapha, chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, disclosed this at the national briefing on Tuesday, in Abuja.
Mustapha, also Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said that the names of the passengers would be published on January 1, 2021, while suspension of the passports would last for six months.
“With effect from January 1, 2021, passports of the first 100 passengers, who failed to take their day-seven post-arrival Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, would be published in national dailies,” he said.
The SGF lamented the difficulties experienced in the national response, noting, “Our National Response is passing through a challenging phase due to the seriousness of the second wave of infections in Nigeria.
”Week 52 has so far given us the highest number of infections in a single week to date. Our analysis shows that 16 out of every 100 tests carried out are positive.
”We are also seeing increasing transmission among younger people and this is not considered good and safe. We must, therefore, exercise utmost restraint by taking responsibility,” he said.
Mustapha said that the PTF had discussed two critical issues, Oxygen supply and Case Management, and during the conversation with health authorities, CMDs of Federal Tertiary Institutions in Abuja, National Hospital; Jabi & Gwagwalada, the PTF directed that the level of Infections, Prevention and Control, as well as case management, should be prioritised immediately.
”With the increasing number of infections and hospitalisation, our objectives are to ensure that infection, prevention and control (IPC) is properly instituted to minimise spread and exposure of health care workers to the virus;
”Ensure that those who require hospitalisation are well managed; those requiring medical attention for other ailments gain access to Treatment at medical facilities; and critical care is available and deployed, especially where oxygen is needed.
“The situation in Abuja and its environs has been of concern to the PTF,” he said.
Mustapha called on state governments and private organisations to start conducting rapid tests as the second wave of the COVID-19 was spreading fast.
The PTF chairman added: “You will recall that we recently issued some protocols to states to which a number of states have been actively implementing. We thank these States and urge others to follow suit.
“Closely related to these protocols, is the fact that the strategy of testing to detect and treat remains central to the role states are expected to play.
”Data shows that despite the resources already made available to sub-national entities, testing is very low across states in varying degrees.
“This is not helping our National Response. Indeed, some states have not reported any infections in several weeks, and laboratories recently established in the states are not working optimally.
“You will recall that we moved from two laboratories to about ninety (Public & Private) located in all states of the Federation. Their inability to function optimally has resulted in unacceptable levels of delay in receiving results and pressure on the National Reference Labs.
“We wish to urge all states to reopen all laboratories and ensure that testing is expanded and turnaround time for results is substantially reduced. In the same vein, states should please keep their Isolation/Treatment Centres open because of the rising cases of infection nationwide.”
He further said that the PTF “has worked out additional quarantine protocols to be observed by travellers arriving from the UK and South Africa. This is in keeping with our determination to minimise any possibility of importation of the virus.
“The new policy started from Monday, December 28, 2020 with key changes that include requirement from passengers for two additional documents: permit to travel/QR code obtained from the travel portal, after payment for the day seven post-arrival test; and COVID-19 PCR negative test with a validity now shortened to 96 hours or four days.
“The PTF shall remain vigilant on this matter and our relevant agencies are also working on the sequencing to determine the (COVID-19) strain found”, he said.