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CAN, RCCG, Winners adopt virtual crossover night services

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Christian Association of Nigeria, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and Living Faith Church Worldwide (Winners Chapel) have asked members not to hold crossover services in churches on Thursday December 31st.

This, they said on Tuesday, was part of adjustments in their programmes to ensure that none of their members would violate the 12 midnight – 4am curfew imposed by the Federal Government to contain COVID-19 spread.

The CAN aligned with government’s ban on watch-night (crossover) service that usually heralds the New Year.

It said the service, usually extending to 12am on the first day of the year, should not hold so that Christians could maintain a strict adherence to COVID-19, protocols.

But the Osun State government reviewed its position on the countdown to the New Year.

It said, “The government has decided to allow crossover religious gatherings, being sensitive to the mood of the season. But any organisation holding crossover service must note that they are expected to close the service early and everyone must be off the streets by 1am,” Osun Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs Funke Egbemode, said.

CAN’s National President Rev. Samson Ayokunle advised state chapters to adhere strictly to directives by relevant government authorities on the crossover night service.

“There is no sacrifice that is too much to put an end to the Coronavirus pandemic in the interest of all and sundry,” Ayokunle said in a statement in Abuja yesterday.

Already, the Ondo State government has vowed to prosecute any church leader that may violate its ban on the midnight service.

However, in Lagos State, the local chapter of CAN and the state government agreed that services should end by 11pm on Thursday.

In a memo to all parishes signed by its Assistant General Overseer (AGO) in charge of Admin/Personnel, Pastor Johnson Odesola, the RCCG said it would do live streaming of the crossover service.

It urged members to link up virtually on Dove Television and other online platforms.

The January 8 Holy Ghost Service (HGS) would also be conducted by the General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, virtually, Odesola said in the memo.

According to him, the mission took the decision in compliance with the government’s directive.

Winners’ Chapel service and Bishop David Oyedpo’s sermon scheduled to start from 6pm on Thursday will be streamed live and viewed by members at all viewing centres affiliated to the church.

Winners’ Chapel said, “Where the government places an embargo on the Crossover Night service, churches may meet earlier to praise and give God praises for the gift of life despite the pandemic and to place their requests for 2021 before God.

Ayokunle also urged Christian leaders to cooperate with the government, saying the directive was understandable.

He said, “We understand the unfortunate state COVID19 infection has put everybody world over, which caused some state governments to place total ban on crossover night service and we are not happy that we would not be able to enter into the New Year prayerfully in joint fellowship with our brothers and sisters.

“We, however, urge you all to abide by the directives of each state government on this so as to prevent the spread of the infection. One thing that is certain is that, the end of COVID-19 is here at last in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ.

“In those states, services should be closed about 10:30pm or at most 11:00pm to enable worshippers to return home on time. It is a passing phase and this too shall pass away in Jesus Name. Very soon, the pandemic will become history and we will return to our usual routine services in Jesus’ Name.”

Ondo State government warned church leaders against violating its directives to avoid prosecution.

It stated this in response to a statement by the state chairman of CAN, Rev. John Oladapo, that churched should hold cross over service in defiance of the state government directive.

Oladapo was reported to have called on Christians to disregard the government’s directive because relevant stakeholders were not consulted.

But the Chairman of the Ondo State Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Adesegun Fatusi, said COVID-19 was primarily a health issue and not a religious issue.

Lagos CAN Chairman, Bishop Steven Adegbite, backed down on earlier directive to members that they end the service by 12.15am and that members who could not return home should pass the night in churches till day break.

In a statement, Adegbite supported government’s directive that the crossover service should terminate by 11pm.

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Gunmen abduct 30 travellers in three vehicles from Niger

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About 30 travellers were on Wednesday abducted by gun in three different vehicles in Niger State.

But the Niger police command said only 13 travellers were abducted at Konar Barau village in the Rafi Local Government Area of the state.

Niger Commissioner of Police, Monday Kuryas, confirmed the incident in an interview with NAN in Minna, the state capital.

According to him, the Divisional Police Officer of Zungeru reported that one Mubarak Idris of Kwanawa village, Sokoto state, reported the matter to the police “at about 1530 hours”.

Idris, identified as the driver of a bus with registration number LGT 12 XWX, was said to have been conveying 18 passengers from Yauri in Kebbi state, when the incident occurred.

The travellers, mostly fishermen, were said to be on their way to Yenagoa in Bayelsa state, when they were attacked.

The police said Idris reported that on getting to a sharp bend at Konar Barau along the Tegina-Minna road, some “suspected bandits in military uniform” attacked the vehicle and took away 13 passengers and his “motor boy”.

The driver also said the gunmen dispossessed him of N131,500.

Speaking on the development, the police commissioner said a manhunt for the victims had commenced.

He also urged residents to come forward should they have useful information that could lead to the arrest of the gunmen.

He said, “We appeal to residents to volunteer reliable information that could aid in apprehending miscreants in the state. We are doing everything humanly possible to ensure the protection of lives and property in our area of supervision.

“All we require from residents is vital intelligence information that could aid the security personnel deployed across the state on movement of dubious characters in their midst for necessary security action.”

The development is coming months after over 100 pupils were abducted from Salihu Tanko Islamiyya school, located in the same LGA where the travellers were kidnapped.

The children regained their freedom after spending 16 weeks with their abductors, but six of the pupils died in captivity.

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Updated: #EndSARS memorial protests rock Lagos, Abuja, two arrested at Lekki tollgate

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Youth group leaders, entertainers and activists on Wednesday staged protests in major cities of the countries including Lagos, Abuja and Enugu in memory of victims of last year’s #EndSARS protests against police brutality.

The police arrested at least two protesters at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos during the EndSARS memorial protest.

The police had repeatedly warned against the EndSARS memorial protest and deployed armed security operatives to the tollgate. But the organisers of the protest said there was no going back and some persons on Wednesday morning converged around the tollgate where protesters were forcefully dispersed exactly one year ago.

The arrests on Wednesday, it was learnt, were made by the armed police who had stormed the area to enforce no protest order earlier issued by the security authorities.

One of those arrested claimed to be a journalist and the other was seen carrying a placard.

Protesters in Lagos used their vehicles to protest, shouting that they want a better Nigeria.

In Abuja and Enugu, protesters reportedly stormed major streets, carrying different placards and shouting #Endsars and police brutality in Nigeria. Some of the inscriptions on their placards are “We will never forget 20-10-20”, “Endsars” and “End Police Brutality”.

In Abuja, Omoyele Sowore, former presidential candidate of the Africa Action Congress, and founder of an online news agency Sahara Reporters, was seen campaigning against police brutality.

In Lagos, Charley Boy, popular singer and song writer, Folarin Falana aka Falz, rapper, songwriter and actor joined protesters in Lekki remembering those that allegedly died last year during EndSARS protests.

Falz wrote via Twitter, “365 days ago, Nigerian citizens were shot and killed at the toll gate by our own military men.

“Today, we honour them because they have sacrificed their very existence for a cause bigger than all of us. They live forever in our hearts.”

Debo Adebayo, a comedian popularly known as Mr Macaroni was also one of those that led the EndSARS vehicular procession at Lekki tollgate.

The organisers had announced the procession on their Instagram handles on Tuesday.

“In memory of those who died that day and those we have lost to police brutality, we will: drive through the toll gate from 8-10 am; blast our horns in unison as we drive through and wave our flags,” the information on the e-flier read in part.

Around 9am, the entertainers joined by some youths rode in a convoy, waving flags at journalists and security operatives at the tollgate.

They said the procession was in memory of the EndSARS protest which ended controversially on October 20, 2020.

Lagos Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, had said his men would only allow any procession of vehicles around Lekki, or any form of protest and had deployed officers in the area.

The arrested journalist told newsmen that he works with LegitTV and that his phone, driver’s licence and other documents were taken away from him.

He spoke from a Lagos State Task Force van where he was kept by the police, identifying himself as Abisola.

A report by the Punch said about 30 police trucks and armed personnel were stationed at the tollgate.

It also reported a car procession in honour of those believed to have lost their lives at the tollgate when soldiers dispersed the EndSARS protesters on October 20, 2020.

The Lekki tollgate was where many youths gathered day and night to air their grievances against police brutality and bad governance.

The protest was later said to have been hijacked by hoodlums, leading to destruction of private and public properties in other parts of Lagos.

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Missing journalist: Group threatens showdown, gives seven-day ultimatum

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The Coalition of South East Youth Leaders, an umbrella body of all the youth groups in the South-East zone has threaten to stage massive protest should the police fail to find missing Tordue Salem, a journalist with Vanguard newspaper within seven days. Salem covers the House of Representatives for Vanguard newspaper.

It gave the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, and other security agencies in the country a seven-day ultimatum to find the journalist.

The ultimatum is contained in a statement released on Tuesday by Goodluck Egwu Ibem, President General of the Coalition of South-East Youth Leaders.

The group said it received with “rude shock the news of the sudden disappearance of Tordue Salem since October 13, in Abuja.

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari who is the Command­er-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; the Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, to activate all necessary machinery to ensure that everything is done to ensure the safe return of Tordue Salem.

Ibem said, “If we don’t see Tordue Salem after seven working days, we will stage a one-million-man protest until he returns safely to his family. The time has started counting,” Ibem posited.

“This kind of story is totally unacceptable to us and we demand that the Inspector General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, and other security agencies “must” find Tordue Salem and hand him over to his family within the next seven working days.”

He also said, “These seven days ultimatum given by us to the IGP and other security agencies to find Salam is not negotiable.

“The IGP must prove his mettle by bringing back Salem to his family. No form of excuse will be entertained. The IGP and other security agen­cies must find Salem immediately.”

The coalition insisted that any form of attack on any journalist is an attack on the entire society.

“They are the backbone of our democracy and any attack on them is an attack against all Nigerians and non-Nigerians,” he said.

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