Ebonyi, Kaduna governments arrest nine pastors for holding church services


The Ebonyi State government yesterday disclosed that it arrested seven pastors for disobeying its restriction on ban on religious gatherings and other forms of assembly in the state. Confirming the arrests, Commissioner for Border Peace and Internal Security, Stanley Okoro Emegha said the arrest would serve as deterrent to other pastors who may decide to violate government’s directive. 


Also in Kaduna, security agents arrested two pastors for holding church services last Sunday in violation of the lockdown order. In a statement issued by Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, the state government gave the names of the clerics as Ifeanyi Ojonu and Giniki Okafor who held church services at Sabon Tasha area of Chikun Council Area of the state.


To curtail the spread of coronavirus, the Ebonyi state government had banned wedding ceremonies, burial ceremonies, night clubs, sporting activities, religious activities, bars and gathering of over 50 persons other than essential service centres such as markets, rice mills and banks. Emegha said the pastors were arrested and handed over to the police for violating the ban on religious gathering noting that the arrest was not to witch hurt them but to save lives. He noted the pastors themselves know the situation at ground and how coronavirus is ravaging the whole world stressing that they should take the lead in protecting lives rather than flouting government’s order. 


In Kaduna, the suspects were arraigned before a Chief Magistrate Court on Monday, April 6, 2020, adding that the suspects were charged with criminal conspiracy and disobedience to an order duly promulgated under sections 59 and 115 of the Penal Code. Also, no fewer than six youths were feared dead yesterday in Kaduna State after a clash between the police and traders.


Traders at the Sabon Garri-Trikania market had trooped out for business activities when they could no longer bear the brunt of the stay-at-home order by government. But to enforce the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown order, armed policemen were said to have opened fire to disperse them. Before the pandemonium died down, six of the youths had kissed the dust. Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mohammad Jalige, said the state command got report of the fracas, but was expecting the report of the DPO in the area.


Meanwhile, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has arrested 321 offenders for violating the social distancing order by overloading their vehicles. A statement by the Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, revealed that the arrests were made with from Sunday, 30 March to April 6, 2020 owing to the presidential directive on social distancing. Giving details of the arrests, he said, “Within the first week of the enforcement, the FRSC has recorded 321 arrests for overloading and violation of the social distance directive.”


Governor Umahi had earlier ordered security operatives to shoot any returnee that tries to escape from the quarantine and isolation centres on sight. The state government had at the weekend ordered immediate isolation of no fewer than 37 returnees that entered the state through the bush after the state government ordered the closure of its borders. He stressed that any of the returnees that try to escape from the quarantine centre where they would be subjected to medical tests daily for 14 days following Coronavirus pandemic should be shot on sight.


The state government had ordered that all the borders in the state be immediately shut down to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading to the state. But no fewer than 30 persons were said to have entered the bush and crossed to a boundary town between Abakaliki and Enugu where vehicles were already on standby to carry them to their various destinations.


The 30 escapees and seven returnees were later taken to a quarantine centre at the Abakaliki Township Stadium where Umahi visited them at 9 pm and ordered that they are subjected to a daily medical examination for 14-days. In a related development, Cross River State Governor, Benedict Ayade has recalled workers of the state-owned Garment Factory to work for mass production of the face and nose masks.