Despite major events including religious programmes being cancelled and or safety and precautionary measures being improved to keep such alive around the world following the outbreak of Coronavirus, Nigerian religious movements, especially churches, have gone on with their businesses as usual without blinking an eyelid.
A yet to be identified Italian had brought in the deadly virus into Nigeria on February 24, 2020, coming in contact with several persons in Ogun and Lagos, thereby increasing chances of a further spread of the disease in the country.
As a result of the situation, Nigeria’s Ministry of Health advised individuals and organisations to embrace a number of hygiene measures including regular washing of hands with soap and water, applying alcohol-based hand sanitisers, avoiding places lacking proper ventilation, wearing nose masks in crowded places in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Christian Association of Nigeria in a statement earlier supported that call by admonishing churches to embrace all safety measures as possible to prevent spread of the virus.
However, during visits to major churches in some Nigerian cities on Sunday including Lagos, Abuja and Jos in Plateau State, SaharaReporters correspondents observed how the most basic of the precautionary items recommended by health experts to prevent against the spread of the virus were missing in such places.
For example, at the headquarters of Love World Christian Centre popularly known as Christ Embassy in Oregun, Lagos, one of our correspondents observed how members hugged and shook hands with each other without observing any of the protective measures advised by health experts.
Though there were two giant metal detectors at the entry and exit points of the church, our correspondent saw no hand sanitiser despite moving round the facility for several minutes.
Also at the Household of God Church a few metres away from Christ Embassy at Oregun, there was nothing to suggest that the religious organisation was taking precautionary measures against the spread of the deadly virus by putting hand sanitisers and other related items at strategic points within the facility.
But every worshipper had their bags and other personal belongings thoroughly scanned by security officials at the church before being allowed into the auditorium for Sunday service.
However, at Daystar Christian Centre on Ikosi Road, Oregun, Lagos, SaharaReporters observed that safety measures had been adhered to by the church as a hand sanitiser dispenser had been placed at the entrance of the auditorium.
Ushers were seen reminding and encouraging worshippers to disinfect their hands before going into the auditorium for Sunday service.
But at the Latter House Christian Center in Jos, Plateau State, worshippers were observed hugging and shaking hands freely while no protective item was seen anywhere near sight.
A pastor in the church, Sarah Amana, told SaharaReporters that the ‘Holy Communion’ served to members was enough protection against any type of virus.
She said, “There’s nothing like hand sanitisers here before one enters the church. Nothing has changed, we still give communion the same way.
“We are not afraid of any virus, the Holy Communion is prevention against it.”
Corroborating the pastor’s position, a member of the church named Nangi Aaron told SaharaReporters that things had been going on as usual at the place despite Coronavirus being imported into the country.
She said, “It’s been the way it used to be, nothing has changed. There are no hand sanitisers in the church.”
At St. Stevens Church in Bukuru, another part of Jos, where basic precautionary items were missing, members expressed belief that the ‘Holy Spirit’ had their backs against Coronavirus or any other type of diseases.
Micheal Kawu, a chorister in the church, said, “As much as we want to be careful, our trust is in God.
“We know that He will always put the mark of exemption on His own. We are confident that He will see us through just like He did when Ebola came into the country.”
In was the same story in churches visited in Abuja by one of our correspondents on Sunday.
For instance, during a visit to St. Luke Catholic Church in Kubwa, Abuja, by one of our correspondents, parishioners were seen trooping into the church auditorium without first sanitising their hands.
It was a similar scenario at the Assemblies of God Church in the area where worshippers went about their normal members with no preventive measure in place.
Speaking on the matter, Bayo Oladeji, Special Assistant on Media and Communications to CAN President, Supo Ayokunle, told SaharaReporters that some churches might ignore the safety measures because “Holy Spirit will protect them”.
He said, “There are churches that believe that once they pray against any evil, they will not be touched.
“Churches are open to Christians and non-Christians; if you say your members are spiritually protected, what about the non-members that come to worship with you?
“Our own is to direct, we cannot force them to do it. We appeal to all churches that have not complied with the directive to do so.”
On March 7, 2020, the Pope cancelled his Vatican addresses and held services via live stream for first time as a result of the outbreak and spread of Coronavirus.
The pontiff has also scrapped his Sunday speech to avoid crowds gathering to see him as a result of the situation.
Though first breaking out in Wuhan, China, Coronavirus has spread rapidly across the world, with Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Senegal, South Africa and Togo all recording cases of the disease in Africa.
The virus has killed over 3,800 persons from across 77 countries so far.