President Buhari's state, Katsina, lifts suspension on Friday juma'at prayers amid COVID-19 pandemic

Despite the increasing number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nigeria which has forced states across the country to put strict measures in place, including ban on large gatherings, Katsina state is taking an opposite route in the battle to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

The Katsina state government has ordered the immediate suspension of ban on Friday juma'at prayers which always attract large gathering of worshippers in the predominantly Muslim state. According to the 2006 census, 95% of the state's 5.7 million population are Muslims.

A statement by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mustapha Muhammad Inuwa, on Tuesday, said the suspension followed a meeting between the state government and traditional rulers, religious leaders and security agents in the state to review the measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"The suspension on Friday prayers has been lifted with immediate effect but to be conducted under some stipulated health/security guidelines," the statement read.

"The Juma'at Imams should however avoid prolonged sermons to discharge their followers within short period."

The order is coming just few hours after a medical doctor, Aliyu Yakubu, died of COVID-19 in Daura, Katsina state, the hometown of President Muhammadu Buhari. According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) Nigeria presently has 254 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with six death toll and 44 have been discharged.

Neusroom also reports that a week ago, some youths in Katsina state protesting the enforcement of the ban on large gatherings razed a police station after their leader was arrested for conducting a Friday Juma'at prayer which attracted hundreds of worshippers in defiance to the ban.

Saudi Arabia, which is regarded as the origin of Islam, has banned prayers in mosques and imposed a 24-hour curfew in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina where over 2.5 million Muslims around the world attend the annual hajj pilgrimage every year.

Meanwhile, some Nigerians on social media have been expressing concerns over the order from the Katsina state government in the midst of COVID-19 outbreak.

A Twitter user Badmus Hakeem wrote: "Worshipers have not been allowed to enter Mecca's Grand Mosque nor the Prophet's Mosque in Medinah, since March 19 in an effort to combat the spread of the virus. The call to prayer has included a line at the end asking people to remain home.

"You want to tell me Katsina Muslims are more devoted in worships than residents of Saudi Arabia? The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: If you hear that there is a plague in a land, do not enter it; & if it (plague) visits a land while you are therein, do not go out of it. But look at Kastina State Government. Please do something @Fmohnigeria @NCDCgov! A selected few should not endanger the whole of the country!"

Another user tweeted: "The Holy Makkah and Madinah is presently on Lockdown and Hajj will probably not hold this year, but the Governor of Katsina, a state with confirmed case of corona virus, has lifted the suspension of Friday prayers "with immediate effect". For God's sake, what do we call this?"

Adebayo Bankole tweeted: "The Katsina State Govt, by extension Nigeria, are playing with FIRE. If Buhari likes, he should not call him to order before Katsina becomes an epicentre of Coronavirus.Even, the Holy land is closed at their time. Bunch of religious sycophants."


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