COVID-19 is a dangerous disease and effort to prevent it must be sustained. In so doing, however, we have to harmonise our obligation in fighting it with our spiritual needs.
Borno State has in the last couple of years been operating under unusual circumstances. We have had instances in which citizens defy Boko Haram for long treks to Eid grounds even when government restricts vehicular movement. There are instances in which citizens insist on return to same worship places within days of attack by suicide attackers. It is similar to the motivation for survival which drives citizens all over the country to defy COVID-19 and converge in markets in search of food and other basics.
People’s survival and religious obligations are divinely strong and cannot be ignored by government.
Given the circumstance, I am directing members of our dedicated COVID-19 response team, chaired by His Excellency, the Deputy Governor, to consult with His Eminence, the Shehu of Borno, to hold a meeting that should be attended by Imam Idaini of Borno and Imams of Eid grounds in the metropolis, relevant security agencies and volunteers, to CRITICALLY DISCUSS the possibility or otherwise of allowing Eids to hold under strict conditions that should aim not only to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but insurgent attacks also. Discussions should be made on the use of face masks to be VERY STRICTLY enforced with hand sanitisers administered at restricted entry points. Consideration may also be given on whether it is necessary to, as a matter of one-off situation, create additional prayer grounds or use of some Friday mosques that will make it easier to have less crowds at every Eid ground so as to make social distancing more feasible.
Notwithstanding these, I will be more than willing to accept whatever outcome, including a contrary one, that is reached between the response team and the Imams after their meeting.
May Allah bring an end to this pandemic, to Boko Haram and to many other problems in Nigeria and beyond.
Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum is the Executive Governor of Borno State.