Odahiekwu Ogunde, Yenagoa
Bayelsa State Task Force on Covid-19 has reprimanded Islamic leaders in the state for non-observance of coronavirus guidelines during their last Friday Jumat prayers.
Technical Assistant, Security Sub-Committee of the task force, Dr Boma Spero-Jack, gave the warning on Monday, during a meeting with Islamic leaders in Yenagoa, the state capital.
A statement by Freston Akpor, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Orientation and member Bayelsa State Task Force on Covid-19, quoted Spero-Jack as warning the Imams and Islamic leaders in the state to take personal responsibility of their respective worship centres by ensuring the enforcement of all guidelines.
He said the meeting was necessitated by the non-observance of Covid-19 guidelines by worshippers at last Friday’s Jumat prayers at the Arietalin Road Central Mosque and other prayer centres in the state capital.
Spero-Jack said social distancing, use of face masks, hand washing and use of sanitisers were not observed by worshippers.
He emphasised that the approved guidelines by government on compulsory wearing of face masks were still in force and that the task force had a duty to ensure that all religious leaders and their followers adhered to the measures.
He warned against spill over of worshippers to the road, thereby obstructing traffic during prayers.
He explained that the guidelines issued by government were applicable to all worship centres and were not targeted at religious leaders, but rather aimed at containing the spread of the pandemic in the state.
He recalled that nine churches were earlier sealed off and the pastors arrested for failure to adhere to the prescribed protocols.
Spero-Jack warned that the task force would not hesitate to seal any worship centre that refused to adhere to the guidelines and take stern measures against its leaders.
He said the task force had ramped up its monitoring efforts on mosques on Fridays and churches on Sundays, being the only days allowed for worship in the face of the pandemic.
Other speakers from the task force urged the Imams to educate their members on the need to observe the measures to contain the pandemic and to take personal responsibility without being compelled to do so.
In their separate remarks, the over 20 Islamic leaders promised to be abreast with the guidelines and keep their followers informed.