President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to Nigerians that his administration’s insistence on the people to adhere strictly to government protocols aimed at curbing the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was not meant to curtail their religious freedom.
In a Sallah message issued by his spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, the President specifically called on Christians and Muslims to exercise patience and understanding over the inconveniences created by the precautionary measures taken for COVID-19, especially the regulations on places of worship. Buhari said the outbreak of coronavirus has made it difficult for people to gather in places of worship as they are used to, urging worshipers to follow the guidelines for the safety of their lives, and loved ones.
His words: “The coronavirus has had devastating adverse impacts on our social, economic and spiritual lives. “The preventive guidelines we have introduced to contain the spread of this deadly disease have unfortunately limited people’s freedom to gather and worship in large numbers in mosques and churches.
“Every measure that has been introduced to contain this disease may have its unintended consequences on the daily lives of our people, and I, therefore, call on Muslims and other faiths to continue to show more understanding with the government as we take correct steps to protect our people through the social distancing.
“No elected government would intentionally take away its people’s religious freedom by limiting the number of people that will gather in worship centres at the same time. “These guidelines are dictated by necessity in order to safeguard public health and should, therefore, not be perceived as infringement on people’s right to worship.” He commended sacrifices of Muslims and Christians in abiding by the COVID-19 guidelines for the good of society, assuring that: “On our own part, we shall continue to provide economic reliefs to the people to minimize the unintended hardships these guidelines have inflicted.” The President reminded worshippers that COVID- 19 was a worldwide affliction with churches and mosques closed around the world and social distancing imposed to safeguard public health.
While wishing Muslims a happy celebration, the President called on worshipers not to forget the symbolic significance of the sacrifices of the Eid-el Kabir. “Muslims should imbibe the noble virtues of our great prophets in order to establish closer connectivity between religious teachings and practice. “We can create the greatest impact by putting into practice the noble teachings of our religion. In whatever we do in life, we must put the fear of God in our daily activities in order to make our society better,” he said.
The President reminded the people of his efforts to root out corruption in the country, stating that the efforts had so far brought a lot of changes in the country’s polity and appealed for support and understanding as investigations are carried out into both legacy cases and fresh cases.