RESPONSE OF THE ONDO STATE INTER-MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE ON COVID-19 TO CAN LEADERSHIP ON THE ISSUE OF NIGHT VIGIL ON 31ST DECEMBER 2020
The attention of the Ondo State Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19 has been drawn to a statement reported in some sections of the media as purportedly made by Rev. John Oladapo, the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ondo State under the heading, “We’re unaware of Ondo Govt’s directive, hold your crossover services – CAN tells Christians”.
In the publication, Rev. Oladapo was reported to have called on Christians to disregard the government directive relating to the curfew currently in operation from 10 pm to 4 am and aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19.
As the Technical Advisory body to the State Government on the control of COVID-19 in Ondo State, the Ondo State Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID 19 hereby wishes to draw the attention of the public, particular Christians and Christian groups, to the following:
1. COVID-19 is primarily a health issue, and NOT a religious issue: it is, therefore, not in the domain or area of competence of any religious group and for CAN leadership to indicate that technical decisions on health matters cannot be validly made by the state government without first consulting with the Association is implausible and absurd.
2. The order of a curfew from 10.00 pm to 4.00 pm is a subsisting public health order that has been in operation for several months and aimed fundamentally at safeguarding the health of the citizens. The decision to maintain the curfew through and beyond 31st December 2020 in Ondo State was taken jointly with a deep sense of responsibility by a body of leading health experts at a meeting convened by the Inter-ministerial committee on Thursday, 24 December 2020, and involving the leadership of the major health professional groups.
3. Government has the primary and primal responsibility to protect and safeguard the health of her people and the Ondo State Dangerous Infectious Diseases (COVID-19 Emergency Prevention Regulation) signed into law on 31st March 2020 empowers the Governor to take relevant actions to curb the spread of the COVID-19, including restriction of movements. The Governor does not need to consult with CAN or any religious or civil group before exercising the power that is duly vested in him by the law of the land.
4. It is dangerously misleading for anyone in a position of leadership in the civil society, including religious leaders who are expected to be role models by the tenets of their callings and the clear teachings of the sacred books that they are called to uphold, to openly call on citizens to disobey government’s public health orders made to ensure the health of people, with the implication of putting the health of the people at risk.
5. The evening and night of December 31st marks the end of the year for all people and not for any religious group and in the face of the threat of the second wave of COVID-19 in Nigeria, all individuals and groups – whatever their religious leaning may be – have a duty to celebrate the events marking the entry into a new year sensibly, responsibly and safely to ensure that they do not put the health of other citizens at risk.
6. While the prerogative to obey or disobey laws is that of individuals and groups, the responsibility to enforce laws is that of the government, and individuals/groups who chose to willfully disobey the government’s duly approved regulations, laws, and orders must be ready to face the consequences, including the penalty specified in section 18 of the Ondo State COVID-19 Emergency Prevention Regulation.
7. The Ondo State Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19, recognizing the need to further strengthen health education, community mobilisation, and stakeholders’ engagement as part of the strategies to control COVID-19 infection has scheduled, beforehand, to meet with religious leaders (Christians, Muslims, and other religions) before 31st December 2020 to discuss more on the recent control measures on COVID-19 and the ways forward.
The Committee hopes that all invited religious leaders will duly attend the meeting where the rationale behind the recent COVID-19 measures would be explained in detail and they will be equipped with relevant information to enable them to assume a greater leadership role in educating their congregations and guiding them aright.
8. Health and safety come first: The Inter-Ministerial Committee hereby expresses her deep appreciation to all God-fearing and genuinely caring religious leaders who continue to demonstrate a high-level dedication to the health and well-being of their congregation by constantly observing the COVID-19 protocols at their services.
We also deeply appreciate the efforts of Christian leaders who had acted responsibly and responsively to inform their branches and members of the subsisting curfew and encouraged them to follow the government’s orders
9. The Inter-Ministerial Committee hereby calls on all the people in Ondo State to celebrate the end of the year with a deep sense of responsibility and a strong commitment to safety and resist any call by anyone, no matter how highly placed, for them to disobey government health order and, therefore, put themselves at the risk of COVID-19 and its consequences as well as legal penalties, including fines and jail terms as specified in the Ondo State COVID-19 laws. Obedience, as the Holy Bible states, is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22)!
Prof. Adesegun Fatusi
Ondo State Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19