Churches accross the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja reopened for Sunday masses and services about three months after ban on religious gatherings as a measure to contain the dreaded Covid-19 disease in the nation’s capital.
Most of the Churches that reopened showed impressive compliant with the guidelines for the re-opening of places of worship in the Territory released by FCT Administration last Thursday after a meeting with the leadership of the FCT Christian Association of Nigeria and League of FCT Imams Initiative.
The guidelines stipulated that places of worship must sign up to full compliance with all aspects of non- pharmaceutical interventions required to protect the public from COVID-19, such as ensuring the supply of running water and soap/alcohol sanitisers at entry and exit points and in all high-contact locations including bathrooms for worshippers sanitise their hands before entry; provision of temperature checks before entry and mandatory use of face masks.
The guidelines strongly discouraged all close contact including shaking hands, hugging, kissing, handing out of materials and sharing of worship implements including prayer mats, musical organs, microphones while each service shall be for a maximum of 1 hour with an interval of 30 mins in between services to allow time for disinfection.
At most of the Churches visited by BusinessDay there was compliance with must of the guidelines especially common ones such as sanitization/ hand washing; avoiding close contacts like handshaking and hugging; social distance in sitting arrangements, use of face mask and time management to stick to the one hour duration.
At SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church, Nyanya, one of the densely populated Parishes in Abuja Archbishop, held nine masses using its new and old Churche building and Parish Hall at three different intervals of one hour each to maintain social distance while hand washing and other protocols were made compulsory.
In the Kuje Area Council, the Major Churches, Living Faith, Dunamis, Redeemed Church, the Saint Kizito Catholic Church, the Church of God Mission, had their churches opened for services and also complied with the guidelines including the provision of running water and soap/alcohol sanitisers at entry and exit points and in all high-contact locations including bathrooms and Worshippers sanitized their hands before entry.
During mass at St.Louis Marie de Monfort Catholic Church in Kubwa, Church wardens supervise hand washing and proper hand sanitising before entering the Church premises while social distancing was also maintained and people wore their face masks accordingly.
Similarly, at the Good Shepherd Assembly, Lokogoma water and soap were provided at the entrance of the church, chairs were arranged distance apart, however the service lasted more than an hour while there was one entrance and exit as against the guideline of using different way out.
Correspondent report that to a reasonable extent, guidelines outlined by the FCT authorities were being adhered to in most Churches visited in the Zuba suburb as there was supply of running water, soap and sanitisers, provision of temperature checks before entry use of face mask.
Our Correspondent however observed that the duration of services in some Churches was over an hour while members who have not seen themselves for long were sighted shaking each other after service.
Also, Church activities resumed full force in Bwari Area Council and social distancing was observed as Church members sit three per pew while there was temperature check, hand wash and sanitisers at major entry points.
One of the guidelines which was not significantly adhered to was temperature check, for which many Churche Leaders lamented the high cost of the Infrared Forehead Thermometers whose prices ranged between N33,000 to as high as N54,000.
Mostly affected by the high cost of the equipment which was made mandatory for temperature gauge to determine the health status of worshippers the smaller churches, with small congregants.
A Pastor at the Church of God Mission, Kuje, simply called James, called on government to subsidize the cost of the Infrared Forehead Thermometer, especially for religious houses.
“We thank God Almighty that we have resumed our regular services. But like many of my Pastor colleagues, I want government to subsidize the cost of the Infrared Thermometer.
“ We have provided everything as a way of complying with the guidelines. I am also happy that all our members are intact”, he said.
In another development, some Churches were still under lock and key, urging members to still follow the online services to avoid their burgeoning crowd.
For instance ,at the Mountain of Fires and Miracle Church at the Shelter Farm District in Kubwa did not resume services in strict compliance to the directive of their General Over Seer who had instructed that services still be put on hold.
Meanwhile, the FCT Administration has commended the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other church leaders across the Territory for ensuring compliance with the Covid-19 guidelines for re-opening of places of worship.
The Chairman, FCT Ministerial Task-team on the Enforcement of COVID-19 Restrictions, Ikharo Attah gave the commendation when he led the team on inspection of some Churches to monitor compliance.
Attah who visited some Churches in Abuja, including First Baptist Church, Area 11, ECWA Church, Maitama and Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Maitama commended the Churches for their strict adherence to the guidelines.
“Entering the Church through the gate, we met some personnel who checked our temperature and gave us sanitizers to apply on our hands. As we entered, we saw several hand washing points. This is what the FCT minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello and the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha want to see”, he said one of the Churches visited.
The Chairman of CAN, FCT Chapter, Samson Jonah whose Church was also visited promised that the body of Christ would sustain the compliance to the protocols.
“For the Church, compliance with government rules, particularly one like this that bothers on the health and safety of Christians is a must. We would continue to do our best to sustain it. We met with the pastors in FCT and directed that the guidelines be strictly adhered to”, Jonah said.
At the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Maitama, Abuja, the team met with the Auxillary Bishop of the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Anselm Umoren who assured that the Church would abide rules and sustain the compliance.
“The Catholic Church across the Federation would always abide by what is good for its members and citizens of the country”, the Catholic Bishop said.
Attah particularly commended the Catholic Church, Maitama for opening a registry of members as parts of efforts to ensure contact tracing should anyone come down with Covid-19.
On the other hand, there was no Jummah prayer last Friday at National Mosque and some others as the guidelines were released few hours to the Friday Jumat Service which starts between 1 and 2pm.
The Chief Imam of National Mosque, Mohammed Kabir had said the Mosque Leadership was working on meeting the requirements and health protocols by the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 a FCT Administration guidelines.
“Officially it is opened but Jumat will hold this Friday because we are not yet set. We are trying our best to comply with the guidelines. We removed the carpets, we want to wash up the place, disinfect it and put other necessary things on ground then we will call for prayers”, he said.