Kogi lifts ban on religious congregation as Ebonyi, Imo, Abia relax lockdown
Worried by the reports of human rights abuse Nigerians in china are going through, the Federal Government has summoned the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Zhou Pingjian to register its displeasure with the situation.
Nigerians in China who had travelled there for business purposes a few days before the federal government announced a lockdown are accusing Chinese authorities of maltreatment, just as they said the Nigerian government did not care about their plight.
A Nigerian returnee in the wake of the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) who preferred anonymity had said that some of his friends in China were going through a lot of stigmatisation from the Chinese.
However, Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama met with Pingjian on Thursday to discuss the issue of maltreatment of Nigerians in China.
Onyeama, on his twitter handle expressed the concern of the Nigerian government over the allegations of maltreatment.
He called for immediate intervention of the Chinese Government on the issue.
“Invited the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Zhou Pingjian to communicate Nigeria’s extreme concern at allegations of maltreatment of Nigerians in Guangzhou, China and called for immediate Chinese Govt. intervention,” he tweeted.
Also unhappy with the reported maltreatment of some Nigerians living in China, are principal officers of House of Representatives, who have demanded an end to the inhumane treatment in the Asian country.
The House of Representatives leadership, led by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, met with the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian on Friday, and urged him to look into viral media reports and videos from Beijing showing Nigerians being forced out of their houses and hotels. The videos further detailed how Nigerians were rounded up and their passports seized by the Chinese police.
Gbajabiamila told the ambassador, according to a release on Friday, that there should be an official explanation for treating Nigerians in such a manner.
The meeting was also attended by the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, and the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu.
The viral videos on Wednesday and Thursday showed some Nigerians in China being forced into another 14-day quarantine after the initial 14 days they spent for same purpose over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gbajabiamila said, “If the diplomatic relationship between our two countries are for the mutual benefits of our citizens, then there must be respect for our citizens and we should not compromise it.
“As a government, we will not allow Chinese or other nationals to be maltreated just as we will not allow Nigerians to be maltreated in other countries. The way you treat your citizens, we expect that’s how you’ll treat others.
“We will not tolerate our citizens breaking your laws, but the crime of one citizen cannot be used to stigmatise the whole country. It appears that was what happened in this case. You can’t use one brush to smear the whole wall. Whatever the reason, it cannot be used and taken out on the entire (Nigerian) community in China.”
The ambassador, Pingjian, said he had not been officially informed of the details of the incident but that he would take it up with the government.
He said, “We take our relationship with Nigeria very seriously. Until we receive a full report back home, I cannot act, but I can assure you it is not a policy issue. We treat everyone equally, but during the implementation of the COVID-19 measures in China, it is possible for some incidents; all I do is to take it back home.”
The Speaker gave the Chinese envoy till Tuesday to get back to the legislature, adding that he hoped the Chinese medical team that arrived Nigeria on Wednesday were in quarantine.
Meanwhile, the Kogi State Government has lifted the ban on religious congregations put in place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, just as Abia, Imo and Ebonyi states have relaxed the lockdown in their states.
Kogi’s COVID-19 Squadron had two weeks ago ordered the observance of social distancing and banned social gathering of more than 50 people in a place, including religious gathering. But the Kogi State Commissioner for Information and Communication Strategies, Kingsley Fanwo, told journalists on Thursday in Lokoja, the state capital that the relaxation of the ban on church activities followed the directive of the Governor, Yahaya Bello, that the ban on religious congregations be lifted with immediate effect to allow religious bodies have their normal worship and services.
He however urged religious leaders to put in place preventive measures such as provision of sanitisers for all worshippers at the entrance of churches and mosques.
“Sitting arrangements in mosques and churches should be done to ensure social distancing,” he said.
The Commissioner said churches and mosques should make their services as brief as possible in order not to keep a large crowd of worshippers within an enclosed confinement for a long period of time.
In Ebonyi State, the government, on Wednesday night, partially lifted the ban it placed on religious activities.
It also relaxed its ban on burials and gave those planning to bury their loved ones in the state between April 9 and 20 to do so.
The Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Uchenna Orji, and the Senior Special Adviser to Governor David Umahi on Religious and Welfare Matters, Rev. Fr. Abraham Nwali, disclosed this during a joint briefing at the Executive Council Chamber of Government House, Abakaliki, after the council’s meeting on Wednesday night.
According to the state government, worshippers were expected to attend their normal church service only on Sunday for Christians and Friday for Muslims with effect from April 12, 2020.
“The service is also expected to start from 8am and end by 12 noon. Every worshipper is expected to wear a face mask and observe social distancing.
“With effect from Sunday, 12th April, 2020, all religious worshippers shall be allowed to have their normal service every Sunday for Christians and Friday for Muslims, from 8am to 12 noon only, provided that every worshipper must wear a face mask, including handkerchief or head tie. The service centre must be provided with hand sanitisers and running water for washing of hands. There shall be no religious gatherings other than on Sundays,” it said.
It added, “Burial of loved ones shall be allowed to hold between 9th April and 20th April, 2020 provided that organisers must ensure the provision of hand sanitisers, face masks, and running water for washing of hands and other precautionary measures.”
Similarly, Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State on Thursday temporarily relaxed the total lockdown order he imposed on the state to allow movement and opening of businesses on Friday, April 10.
The governor also told the people of the state not congregate for Easter church services but observe them online or through the electronic media.
This is just as he announced that the lockdown would continue from Saturday April 11.
The new directive is contained in a statement issued by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Declan Emelumba, who said the approval was for the people of the state and residents to shop for food items for the Easter celebrations.
“This means that the total lockdown of the state will be temporarily relaxed on Friday, April 10, to enable Imo people and residents shop only for food items for the Easter celebrations”.
“Consequently food markets and food vending supermarkets will be allowed to open from 6am to 6pm tomorrow. All concerned are advised to adhere strictly to the time allowed and ensure that they shop only for food items”, the statement reads in part.
He advised the people of the state to observe the Easter Sunday church services on-line or through the Electronic media as it affected their respective denominations.
“Security agencies are under firm orders to ensure that the lock down order is strictly adhered to and that those caught in violation are promptly arrested and prosecuted.
In Abia State, the Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, has approved a relaxation of the extended seven-day lockdown in the state.
The Secretary to the Abia State Government and Chairman of the COVID-19 Committee, Abia State, Chris Ezem, said, “There would be free movement of people within the state only between the hours of 6am on Friday, April 10 (Good Friday) and 2pm on Sunday, April 12 (Easter Sunday), 2020.
“Accordingly, religious worshippers shall be free to worship at their various churches and mosques,” the government said, adding, “but with no more than 50 persons per stream of worship and all must wear face mask”.
Ezem asked churches and mosques to provide a minimum of four points for hand-washing with running water and soap, and hand sanitisers.
Kogi lifts ban on religious congregation as Ebonyi, Imo, Abia relax lockdown