The governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, is meeting with the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on Sunday to decide if the state government would allow churches in the state to open their doors for worshippers, as the state continues to fight the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Emmanuel disclosed this on Saturday during a phone-in live radio interview in Uyo.
He said the government would receive a report from CAN on the issue and thereafter come up with a guideline for churches to meet if they are to open for Sunday services.
“It is not in our best interest not to allow corporate prayers prevail in this state,” Mr Emmanuel said. “I am worried, I am aware that people are eager to go to church.”
The governor advised the people to be patient and allow CAN present its report, first.
The governor a few days ago had explained why his administration permitted businesses, and not the churches, to reopen in the state.
“The problem is not the church; the problem is after church (service) what happens?” Mr Emmanuel said on May 9 during a similar radio interview.
“People come into the church, they come in individually, so that’s not a problem – you use hand sanitisers, you use face mask. But when once they share the grace after the church service, somebody you have not seen in one week that is when people begin to hug, that is when people begin to share fellowship, brotherhood, sisterhood, and so on, that is where we are scared of,” he said.
“At that point the pastor wouldn’t be able to control the crowd, wouldn’t be able to control how those people interact after church service.”
The governor, in his latest interview, however, said the ban on weddings, burials, and other social gatherings would still be in place.
Mr Emmanuel thanked health workers and other professionals in the state for their dedication to the fight against the novel coronavirus.
He said Akwa Ibom State has achieved more than 90 per cent success in contact tracing and a “huge” success too in the treatment of COVID-19.
There are 21 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Akwa Ibom State as of May 23.
Despite the increasing number of coronavirus infection across Nigeria, several state governors have eased the restriction on religious gatherings in their states due to pressure from religious leaders.
Taraba, Nasarawa, Bauchi, Borno, Cross River, Jigawa and Katsina are among the states that have eased religious restrictions.
There are 7,261 cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria as of May 22, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 in Nigeria so far are 221, while 2007 persons have been treated and discharged from hospitals.