here are indications that those who are clamouring for immediate reopening of worship places in Lagos and Ogun states may have to waiting a bit longer.
Sunday Telegraph investigation found out that, even though the state authorities are inclined to allow worship places to return to business, realities on ground compel the powers that be in the states to tread cautiously.
The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Samson Ayokunle, had in a recent statement signed by his Special Assistant (Media &Communications), Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, asked state governments to reopen all worship places immediately saying; “Continued lockdown order on the places of worship is no longer acceptable and reasonably justified.”
Besides, lots of Christian leaders have continually accused CAN of not adequately representing the interest of the Church in Nigeria; and engaged on individual crusades to actualise the quest for reopening of public worship, despite the fact that Lagos State remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Presiding Minister of Holy Spirit Mission, Bishop Charles Ighele, continued closure of worship centers couple with the conditionalities of reopening is tantamount to “taking God, who has given the church power against all diseases, out of the equation.” Echoing Rev Ayokunle’s demand for immediate reopening of churches, CAN’s Director of National Issues, Bishop Stephen Adegbite said: “The time to reopen worship centers is now. We cannot continue in indefinite closure of our churches, because there are other places that have been opened. We are more disciplined than market. stalls, and there more people moving in buses and other areas.”
He added: “It is only God that can deliver us not any man. If we believe in the efficacy of prayers and corporate anointing, we should be able to reopen the churches.” He further argued that it is not on record in Nigeria that diseases or sicknesses spread in the church. “The church is more disciplined place; and is ready to follow more diligently all the guidelines of NCDC. If federal government has reopened worship center Nationwide, Lagos State shouldn’t be an exemption. We should embrace that with faith and the ability to provide religious leadership for Lagos State and Nigeria as religious leaders.
“If the CAN President has spoken all of us must work towards that, ensure reopening of our churches without any further delay and let people to go and worship. African, Nigerians are very religious and we must allow people go back to church and worship. Since about four months now, the churches have been closed down,” Adegbite added.
Invariably, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Lagos State chapter, Apostle Alexandre Bamgbola said that the state chapter is on the same page with the National CAN, adding that in had s capacity as the Lagos CAN Chairman, CAN working in conjunction with Muslim leaders in the state had done everything possible to get the consent of the authorities in Lagos State
His words: “We asked Lagos State to open before, we have done everything with the Muslim working together; we said the worship centers should be reopened on May 25and 27 and the Governor allowed worship centers to be reopened but things went bad again. When we considered many things, we said no let’s still see how it goes.”
Bamgbola insisted that the church will be opened, nobody can close the church of Christ.
Bamgbola, however, said that Lagos State government has been really forthcoming with both the christian and Muslim. “They have been carrying us all along, we have had several meetings in March and April. We still had virtual meetings with the governor last month and the government has been very open and carried us all along, we thought that the church would be reopened but the indices changed, they explained it to us and it wasn’t palatable. So at the last virtual meeting we had, the big religious leaders were their, the presented the situation to the spiritual leaders, some of them said open some, said no its not safe to open. So government is looking at the facts presented by COVID-19 Committee/ health experts and recommendations of religious leaders,” he further explained.
However, a prominent elder in the Anglican Diocese of Lagos, Chief Dele Melvin cautioned both sides saying: “We have to be more careful in this country. Look at what is happening in America with all the resources there. They have more prayer people, churches and all the evangelicals are there praying for them. People said reopen churches, they opened. Those who are supporting Donald Trump few weeks ago were jumping and saying we are going to open, look at what happened. Death all over the place.”
Sunday Telegraph reliably learnt that there over 30 million people in Lagos State, much more than the population of Ghana. “If anything goes wrong with this pandemic in Lagos those who are lucky to be alive will all run out to the East, to the North and everybody will go home. The population of Lagos State is too much and can’t compare with Edo or Sokoto States or any other state. That’s why we have to be more realistic.
“It’s true that CAN President has requested Lagos and Ogun States governments to reopen worship centers, but these two states are the epicenter of the whole problem, Look the deaths, we saw it in Italy. I mean you can’t be more Christian than the Pope, he won’t die because has an underground where he can hide from Corona virus infection. Yet the Pope had to close down St Peters Basilica, in Rome, until they felt more comfortable,” the Anglican elder stated.