As the Lagos State Government lifts the restriction on the religious activities, some churches within Lagos metropolis were greeted with low attendance amidst strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Federal Government, had on March 15, instituted lockdown measures and banned public gatherings while religious places were sealed as a precautionary move against the spread of COVID-19.
However, tougher lockdown measures was imposed in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja given their status as the epicenter of the COVID-19 in Nigeria which later resulted to 20-week of ban on public religious activities.
The Lagos State Government, on July 30, in consultations with relevant stakeholders reviewed its COVID-19 protocols to allow religious activities to hold within stipulated guidelines.
The announcement by Lagos state government stipulated that churches are only permitted to hold on Sundays, while attendees above 65 years are strongly discouraged from attending services.
The guidelines also included the enforcement of the use of facemask, while regular cleaning and disinfection of facilities must be adhered to.
The state also recommended appropriate screening facilities for testing such as sanitizers and temperature checks, among others.
The first Sunday after the relaxation of the lockdown and re-opening of churches within Lagos, on the spot assessment by NAN correspondent showed strict compliance by the churches that were opened for the Sunday services.
A check on churches around Berger, Ojodu and Ogba areas of Lagos showed that many faithful were still held back, while the churches that had services ensured strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.
At The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Solid Rock Parish, Ojodu Berger, Sunday services had already commenced around 8:00 a.m. with strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocols ensured.
During the service, members sat at a social distance within themselves, while the use of public address system was minimized.
Also, at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Livingstone Assembly, Ojodu, worshippers were seen stopped at the gate where their temperatures were taken and some hand washing equipment provided.
The Zoe Ministry Worldwide, Favour Arena, Budland Estate in Akiode had already concluded the Sunday Services as at 11:30.a.m, but a pastor who spoke under anonymity confirmed low turnout of church members.
“We are happy that the churches are now allowed to open, the members are also happy with the development; for today, attendance was encouraging.
“As time goes on, many who did not come today will have less doubt and will come around because we are just starting,” he said.
Pastor Sejiro Oluwasegun of the Christ Livingspring Apostle Ministry, (CLAM), Ogba, Lagos, told NAN that members of the church were in good spirit at the first meeting after the lockdown.
“It is a good thing that the church activities are now resuming. It’s just like starting all-over or to say a resurrection and of course today, members are really lifted.
“Our members are happy that services are back, although not all services, but at least Sunday services. The fact that we can come together on Sunday to fellowship is a good development.
“The number of worshippers is quite encouraging, but there will always be a first time to everything, subsequent services may witness more turnout as we were just about 20 per cent of our previous attendance,’’ he said.
At the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC), City of God Cathedral, where Cardinal James Odunmbaku presides at Akiode, Lagos, strict COVID-19 protocols were observed as members queued to take their turn to be screened.
Worshippers were sanitized with an electronic spray stationed at the entrance before being allowed to go into the auditorium with notice about the COVID-19 guidelines pasted strategically on the walls of the church.
The Head of Administration of the Celestial Church, Rev. Olasupo Ajayi JP, told NAN that the security and enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols were uppermost in the minds of the church hierarchy.
“Opening of churches is a welcomed development because we have been looking forward to it. We now have the opportunity to worship God since March when we opened last.
“As God directed us, we must respect the authority, so coming back to worship now, we need to abide by the government rules and regulations in our order of service.
“Those that were above 60 and the ones below 15 have been advised to stay at home, while we have equally sent short messages (SMS) to our members to ensure compliance.
“We have to also suspend the Sunday School today because of the limited time we have since the populations has been put to only 50 per cent of our attendance,’’ he said.