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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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Photo: 16th Ramadan Lecture of the UNILAG Muslim Community

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L-R: Dr Abduhamid Taofeek, Rector of the Federal Polytechnic Ayede, Oyo State, and guest lecturer; Prof. Oluwole Familoni, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic and Research at the University of Lagos,  representing his Vice Chancellor, Prof. Toyin Ogundipe; Prof. Lawal Salako, Director-General of the National Institute of Medical Research and chairman of the occasion; Chairman, UNILAG Muslim Community, Prof. Lai Olurode and Chief Imam of UNILAG Muslim Community, Prof. Olayide Abass, on at 16th Ramadan Lecture of the UNILAG Muslim Community…on Saturday.

Photo: UNILAG Muslim Community.

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Bandits threaten to kill 29 Kaduna students, demand N500m ransom

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Bandits have threatened to kill the 29 abducted students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna, still in their custody, following the refusal of the Kaduna State Government to meet their demand of N500 million ransom.

A total of 39 abducted from the school were abducted from the school on March 11. Ten of the students have been released in two batches after some parents have reportedly paid ransom to the bandits.

The Kaduna State Government has insisted that it would not negotiate with the bandits, while the parents pleaded with Governor Nasir el-rufai to negotiate with the abductors.

Spokesman for the parents, Friday Sanni, said at a press conference in Kaduna on Friday that they had received the threats via telephone from the bandits to kill the remaining 29 abductees who have now spent 37 days in captivity.

He said, “We are calling on Nigerians, non-governmental organisations, charity organisations and donors to come to our aid in donating to rescue our children. We don’t know what is happening to them.

“The bandits have threatened to kill our children if we play with them. The other time, they said they will marry the female and kill the men and that a time will come when even if we bring the money, the money will not be useful.”

He said since government claimed security agents rescued the two batches of 10 students earlier released, they should do something about the remaining students.

Sanni also said, “The government has said any parent who negotiates with the bandits will be prosecuted but most of the parents are already arrested emotionally. Our children today are faced with AK 47 guns on them. The faith of our children is what we don’t know; they have spent 36 days without clothing, food, clean drinking water or bathing.”

He said the parents would continue to find a way of reaching out to the bandits.

Sanni said: “We will continue to protest, no matter the number of security forces. The highest is death and we are ready to sacrifice that for our children who have promising futures.”

Sources among the parents said the bandits were earlier given N17 million for the release of all the 39 students following negotiations, “but after they collected the money, they changed their mind, saying it was too small and decided to release only 10 of the students.”

The source said negotiations with the bandits by parents were still going on.

In a statement after the briefing by the parents, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said, “The governor will continue to work hard until banditry is contained, without succumbing to emotional blackmail and gradual politicisation of the unfortunate situation.”.

The commissioner denied reports that Governor El-Rufai threatened to prosecute parents of the abductees for negotiating with the bandits.

The governor had vowed that he would not negotiate nor pay ransom to bandits and that anyone that negotiates with bandits on behalf of the state government would be arrested and prosecuted.

Aruwan said, “Contrary to the mischief in some sections of the media, the bond between the Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai and the parents of the abducted students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, and other citizens in captivity, is deep empathy amidst spirited efforts to secure them.

“The governor will continue to work hard until banditry is contained. Some section of the media has been reporting purported threat by the governor to prosecute parents of the abducted students, which is simply false and deeply mischievous.”

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PDP lambasts Islamic cleric, Muhydeen Bello, for criticising Makinde

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The Oyo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party has lashed out at a popular Islamic cleric, Sheikh Muhydeen Bello, for condemning the Governor Seyi Makinde-led government.

The party, which described the cleric’s comments as ‘uncharitable and unfair’, said his criticism of Makinde was inspired by the Tafsir’s royalty he reportedly received from organisers of the event, adding that everything the cleric said against the present administration was against the true teachings of Islam, the spirit of Ramadan.

PDP in a statement on Thursday by the party’s spokesperson in the state, Akeem Olatunji, said the rapid infrastructural developments being undertaken by Governor Seyi Makinde’s administration are very visible, even for the blind to see.

The Islamic preacher, while delivering a sermon at the first annual Abiola Ajimobi Ramadan lecture, stated that there had been no visible development in the state since the new government took over power.

Oyo PDP said despite the absence of COVID-19, EndSARS protest, Fulani herdsmen crisis and other security health and security challenges during the last administration era, the APC government still owed not only workers but also the aged and retired workers.

The PDP statement read in part, “Our attention as a party has been drawn to some very uncharitable, unsubstantiated, unfair, and financially inspired sermon credited to Sheikh Muhydeen Ajani Bello at the annual Abiola Ajimobi memorial Ramadan lecture which held on Wednesday 14th April in Ibadan.

“We ordinarily would not have given a reply a thought out of respect for the spirit of the holy month of Ramadan but we chose to put records in proper perspective by reacting to the commercial sermon so as to avoid the cleric creating wrong impressions in the minds of our beloved Muslim brothers based on the sensitiveness of the commercial sermon and its consumption.

“First of all, considering the Holy month of Ramadan in which Muslims all over the world are humbly observing fasting, any true cleric is charged with the duty of spreading the gospel of love, peace, and the truth will intensify sermons on lifting the already down spirits of Nigerians who have already gone through a lot under the present APC led federal government, so much that the call to divide Nigeria by some sections of the country reached its record peak.

“The good people of Oyo State who had perhaps expected to hear a soul-lifting sermon from the cleric would by now be left in serious disappointment because the present government which the Sheikh Bello tried fruitlessly to discredit was enthroned by the people who rejected APC in its entirety by not only throwing out their government and with the various heart-rending activities of herdsmen on farmers and bandits on the Nigeria people, it’s preposterous that Sheikh Muhydeen Bello has failed to call out the non-performing President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government but condemning instead of praising a super performer like Governor Seyi Makinde.

“Government is indeed continuum and as much as we are constrained to abstain from speaking at all about the dead we are compelled to make certain clarifications for the purpose of education and a better understanding of how other western countries develop.

“The present PDP government under Governor Makinde believes strongly in purposeful leadership which is why it is strategically making necessary corrections on rehabilitation and reconstruction of critical infrastructures where the last administration failed to deliver on quality and durable ones instead of abandoning them and starting up new ones to gain cheap political scores like APC would do.

“For the sake of records and emphasis, our dear Governor has attained a high level of public acceptance and street credibility as Seyi Makinde who in the midst of the youth restiveness and ravaging EndSARS protest walked confidently and boldly among the angry youths to cart way forward.

“On the issue of legacy, what tangible legacy and positive developments is he ascribing to an Ajimobi administration which left the state in unprecedented debts without tangible projects to show for it?’ Also, right in the city of Ibadan, the state capital, the evidence of decay, abandoned projects and lack of foresight by the administration the sheikh was praising are more than evident.

“Which development is he talking about when the Ajimobi regime abandoned the Moniya-Iseyin road, leaving farmers and farm produce from the food basket of the nation prostrate?” On top of that, the Ajimobi led APC government awarded a failed project that wasted N2bn of Oyo’s hard-earned money.

“What positive development is in a government that abandoned Agbowo to rot away and was on the verge of converting the edifice to private use but for the providence that brought GSM?

“Despite the daily suffering of our people on that axis, did the Sheik travel on Iseyin road before making that statement? What about the abandoned onipepeye/Alaska Airport road that was abandoned in the eight years of Ajimobi? Will the Sheik say he didn’t see anything about junction improvement around Challenge, the bus terminals in Iwo Road and, challenge and Ojoo? Is he blind to the light-up projects phase one and 2; the massive rehabilitation of the 299 primary health care centres and the unique initiative being displayed in the management of state finances leading to a 26 per cent increase in IGR?

“Since Sheikh has suddenly found his voice to justify the money received from the organizers of the memorial lecture to deliver a sermon during this holy month, we advise the commercial cleric to channel his energy to join his voice with other Nigerians clamouring for good governance from the APC-led Federal Government before the divisive elements calling to divide Nigeria have their way because Seyi Makinde is already leading the way by exemplary leadership.”

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