Monday, 27 July 2020

Breaking: C'River state govt to close down some churches in Calabar due to COVID-19

Ukorebi Esien | 27th July 2020

CALABAR: As the state keeps recording more Covid-19 cases and some churches continue to fault the Covid-19 protocols for worship centers, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN in Collaboration with office of the Special Adviser on Religious Matters has disclosed that it is now ready to recommend some churches for immediate closure for putting the lives of their members at risk. TDN can authoritatively report. 

Speaking exclusively with TDN, in an interview, the Special Adviser to the governor on Religious Matters, Southern Senatorial District, Rev. Fr. Malachy Ephraim said the Christian Association of Nigeria's Monitoring Team have continued to sensitized as well as monitor the activities of religious bodies in the state to ensure compliance with the laid down procedure and protocols for worship as announced by the governor of the state, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade before allowing worship centers in the state to reopen. But unfortunately some pastors have refused to adhere to these protocols even after being warned severally,  

According to the, SA these pastors are putting the lives of their members at risk so it is better to close down those churches instead of allowing one disobedient pastor to make the governor reverse his decision of allowing worship centers open.

"Any moment from now, the Senior Special Adviser Ref. Fr. Bob who is working closely with his Excellency, the governor of Cross River State, will likely Suspend some churches who are not complying with his Excellency's directives." Father Malachy revealed.

 "In the course of our tour we have seen so many churches who are still proving stubborn and those who don't have the capacity to protect the lives of their worshipers after issuing warnings to them for sometime now, we intend to tell the governor, these are the stubborn churches please close them, till the pastors learn some lessons." He said. 

"We have told them what to do if they must hold worship services. They must abide by the protocols which are; 

1. Worship services must not last more than one hour 30 minutes 

2. Churches must provide Hand sanitizers and (or) running water and soap for washing of hands by members before entering the church.

3. Worshipers must use nose mask and(or) face shield 

4. Worshipers must strictly observe social distancing while in church.
We will keep monitoring, observing and appealing with them to observe these protocols but any pastor who continues to violate them will be sanctioned by August when we shall recommend them for immediate closure." He stated.

Furthermore, the Rev. Father said closing these churches will be temporal as only serves as a warning, he advised pastors to obey constituted authorities while using Lagos and other states as a case study where churches are still not opened and nobody is complaining. 

Earlier the Cross River State Chairman of CAN, Most Rev. O. B. Ekpenyong had exclusively informed TDN that the Monitoring team was set up by CAN to monitor and sensitize the church on the need to comply with the protocols. He however noted that there are improvement in the compliance level by churches except for some of stuborn pastors who will soon face the penalty.

"We are not cutting down religious activities, originally there was a ban on corporate worship, we as CAN lobbied and prevailed on the governor to ease the ban, which was what he did, though with some guidelines and protocols. So our job as a monitoring team is to ensure these protocols are adhered to so we can all be alive to worship God." 

The CAN boss, said if pastors fail to educate their members about the pandemic and any pastor who do not obey constituted authority as written in Romans chapter 13, such a person has no need being a pastor. He enjoined pastors to save the lives of their members as full worship activities will be restored when the pandemic is over, therefore, pastors should abide by the protocols till then.

The COVID-19 Monitoring Team insisted that the ban on weekly activities, tarry nights, prayer meetings etc is still in place, pastors should strictly adhere to this, however, any pastor who thinks he can hold a tarry night or prayer meeting for one hour 30 minutes with all Covid19 protocols in place, such pastors can go ahead but his church will be closed if he fails to follow the protocols.