COVID-19: Religious Groups Resist Government Restriction order

In Kasuda, Katsina state, north-west of Nigeria, irate Muslim faithful took to the streets in protest Saturday morning. Mallam Muhammad Hussan, the Imam at the local mosque in Kusada Local Government Area, had mobilized his followers for a Jumat worship, Friday, 27 March, in defiance of the order suspending crowd inducing gatherings. The Police in the state responded by cordoning the mosque. A HumAngle reporter in the state reports that the Imam escaped arrest by ducking through the crowd.

Not willing to back off, his followers turned out in their numbers to stage a protest, further vowing to return for another religious obligation in the evening. In Jos, Plateau State, in the north-central region of Nigeria, a local Islamic Izala leader, Sheik Sani Jingir, and hundreds of his followers equally defied a standing government order on religious and other social gatherings. On Friday, 27 March, he held a crowded Jumat in Masala, Yan Taya in the state. No Police presence was reported at the scene but Sheik Jingir later defended his action, claiming that the governor of the state, Simon Lalong, did not personally inform him of any restrictions.

Although seemingly isolated, there are concerns that a few Islamic leaders with radically fundamental leaning may be seeking opportunities to challenge the government restriction order in northern Nigeria. Several governors across states in Nigeria have rolled out stringent restriction orders as a last-ditch measure to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in their different domains. The Kaduna state governor, Nasir Elrufai, for instance, threatened religious leaders in a tweet that they stood a chance to lose the property and the land title in which they operate if they defied the orders of the state.

State Governments are implementing measures to also mitigate the spread of COVID19 and improve their preparedness to contain the crisis.

These measures include temperature screening in public places, provision sanitizers and disinfectants, restriction of movement and refurbishing isolation centres to provide medical care for patients.

Governors of Kano, Rivers, Delta, and Enugu states have announced closure of land boundaries and all interstate access routes to their various states.

The threat from fundamentalist religious groups to civil order, particularly in Northern Nigeria, is not new. And it doesn’t seem to be abating even against the grain of logic and public safety measures.

Two clerics were arrested in Kaduna on Saturday for violating the restriction of movement and crowd gathering order. A KDSG statement said that Malam Aminu Umar Usman and Malam Umar Shangel will be prosecuted.

The Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control are battling to fight the coronavirus disease (COVID19) pandemic, which has spread to nine States across the country with Lagos State having the highest number of cases.

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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  1. Please, try and endeavor to use appropriate pictures to depict your news. The picture use is quite misleading.

  2. There is unconfirmed reports that a police station was raised down by the irate muslims in the Kaduna incident.

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