On Friday, March 27, the Chairman of the Ulama’u Council of Izalatil Bid’a Wa’ikamatis Sunnah, Sheikh Sani Yahaya Jingir, led the weekly Muslim congregational Jumu’ah prayer at the sect’s mosques in Jos in contravention of the directives given by the Plateau State Government against all forms of public gathering to forestall the spread of coronavirus in the state.
Two days after, on March 29, another clergyman and General Overseer of Jesus Reign Family Church in Apo district, Abuja, Pastor U. Uden, was in the news. On that fateful Sunday morning, the pastor held a congregational church service also in contravention of an order of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Administration banning all forms of gathering until the covid-19 pandemic is contained.
Of course, due to the combustible nature of religious issues in Plateau, and especially against the backdrop of the incessant ethno-religious violence that had pervaded the tin mining city for years, Sheikh Jingir only got invited by the police two days ago. His claim of ignorance of the government order was not only lame but amounted to a display of theocratic arrogance.
The Sheikh ought to know from the preaching of Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, that pandemic virus grows wing in an environment of unrestrained social interaction. Hence, the prophetic saying that when a community is afflicted with a plague, people living in there should not travel out and those outside should not go into the community.
In his own case, Pastor Uden attracted a mild drama as he refused to halt his church service when chairman of the enforcement task force, Mr. Ikharo Attah, signaled to him to do so. The enforcement team however took their time and when the service ended, Mr. Attah addressed the recalcitrant pastor with the confidence of an erudite scholar:
“On Friday, we shut down some mosques at Kubwa. Today, we went around and said there should not be gathering and we know that you understand the holy books clearly well.
“When the Messiah Jesus was asked questions by the Pharisees about Caesar. He said to them to give what belongs to Caesar to Caesar. And when Apostle Paul wrote to the Church of God that abided in Rome in Romans 13, verses 1-2, he told them to be subject to all authority for they are being ordained by God. I know you understand that very clearly.
“We said people should sit down and stay at home…What you are doing is a contravention. It is a breach of the rule. And as a people under God living and enforcing the law for such a time as this, we will do what is appropriate. You will come with us for explanations”, Attah concluded.
We commend Mr. Ikharo Attah and the Plateau State Police command for the professional manner with which they handled the two cases. These are indications that law enforcement in Nigeria can be achieved by security agents without the recourse to inhuman treatment, especially of unarmed offenders.
As for the two clergymen, and others that may have escaped arrest, we affirm that their conducts were indeed inimical to the health and safety of not only their congregations but the citizens of our country. At this crucial period of a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed 46,891 lives globally within three months as at April 2, clerics across faiths are expected to show responsible leadership and exemplary conducts that will enable those in authority to galvanise the support of all citizens.
Clergymen men must realize that, by their own callings, they are answerable to God and those in authority for the well-being of their flocks. Hence, they must never again contravene lawful directives that are meant to protect the same followers they claim to be leading in worship.