President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday appealed to Nigerians for their understanding over the restrictions imposed on them to curb the spread of COVID-19, saying they were not intended by the federal government to inconvenience them.
He specifically appealed to Muslims and Christians to remain patient over the continued closure of worship centres, explaining that the federal government finds no joy in denying the people of their rights to full worship.
The president, in his goodwill message to Muslims in commemoration of this year’s Eid-el-Kabir celebration said the decision to disallow religious gatherings was a forced measure to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; his deputy, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; and National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, in their Eid-el-Kabir messages also called for peace and tolerance among all religious adherents in Nigeria.
Buhari, in calling for patience over the non-reopening of churches and mosques, said: “No elected government would intentionally take away its people’s religious freedom by limiting the number of people that will gather in worship centres at the same time.
“These guidelines are dictated by necessity in order to safeguard public health and should, therefore, not be perceived as an infringement on people’s right to worship.”
In the Sallah message made available to reporters by one of the president’s media aides, Malam Garba Shehu, Buhari appealed to citizens to continue to show understanding of the inconveniences caused them by the regulations of religious worship
He noted the consequences of the various regulations put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19 on daily living, saying that such regulations are deliberately conceived to protect citizens.
“Every measure that has been introduced to contain this disease may have its unintended consequences on the daily lives of our people, and I, therefore, call on Muslims and other faiths to continue to show more understanding with the government as we take correct steps to protect our people through the social distancing,” he stated.
The president lamented the adverse effects of the outbreak of COVID-19 on the socio-economic and religious lives of citizens, reiterating that the pandemic has affected freedom of worship.
“The coronavirus has had devastating adverse impacts on our social, economic and spiritual lives. The preventive guidelines we have introduced to contain the spread of this deadly disease have unfortunately limited people’s freedom to gather and worship in large numbers in mosques and churches,” he added.
While noting the sacrifices made by Muslims and Christians as reflected in their decisions to abide by COVID-19 guidelines in the overall interest of the society, Buhari assured them that the federal government “shall continue to provide economic reliefs to the people to minimise the unintended hardships these guidelines have inflicted.’’
Reminding religious adherents that COVID-19 is a scourge ravaging the entire world, he noted that it is not only in Nigeria that churches and mosques are shut, but rather a global trend in the efforts to ensure the observance of social distancing and safeguard public health.
Buhari wished Muslims a happy Eid-el-Kabir celebration and encouraged Muslims to remember the symbolic significance of the sacrifices of Sallah by exhibiting the virtues of prophets of the religion.
According to him, practising teachings of the religion will yield a tremendous impact as he admonished fellow Muslims to exhibit the fear of God in their activities
“Muslims should imbibe the noble virtues of our great prophets in order to establish closer connectivity between religious teachings and practice.
“We can create the greatest impact by putting into practice the noble teachings of our religion. In whatever we do in life, we must put the fear of God in our daily activities in order to make our society better,” he said.
The president said he was making efforts to root out corruption in the country and such efforts had so far brought changes in the polity.
He appealed for support and understanding while investigations into both legacy cases and fresh cases are in progress.