Today, the government of Jigawa state announced it was relaxing its strict lock down and reinstating movement privileges for Keke napeps, one of the major modes of public transportation in the state. As one of the states in Northern Nigeria which has seen fewer cases of the dreaded Coronavirus, Nassarawa’s decision to restart its economy is a source of worry to many, who fear that the Eid celebrations that will be announced next week to mark the end of the month of Ramadan will lead to a significant explosion of cases in Northern Nigeria. They are right to worry.
The president certainly is, he announced at the start of the week through the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 at the urging of the NCDC (following information that suggested he would give a speech but didnt) that he was extending the lock down on Kano state, the Northern epicentre of the virus, following more than a thousand explained deaths of the elderly and the immuncompromised in the state. The governor of Kaduna state, Mallam El-Rufai has also been cautious about easing the lock down in his state. Instead he has been experimenting with strategies to keep people safe while slowing the spread of the virus and preventing a total collapse of the state’s healthcare institutions. This has led to open dissent from religious leaders in Kaduna state and pressure from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to ease the lock down.
The reality is that we are not even halfway with conquering the pandemic. In Nigeria, which has nearly 200 million citizens, only 35,000 tests for the Coronavirus have been conducted, many of those tests repeats of previous tests. That means the vast majority of the population is untested and unwilling/unable to protect themselves and others. A religious event like Eid, especially one after a period like this will trigger questionable behaviour which might lead to spikes in infections that will rescind all the progress we have made so far.
Eid is intergral to the lives of Muslims, but the stakes are too high to take risks like mass juma’ah prayers or sallah celebrations. Allah accepts the ibadah of his faithful and prioritizes their lives over public acts of devotion.