The new guidelines issued by the Akwa Ibom state government for churches to commence physical services in the state has been described by the Pastor of the International Worship Centre, Christ Embassy, Uyo, Pastor Emmanuel Effiong, as another attempt to gag churches in the country.
The guidelines were issued by the state government after due consultation with the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, led by Rev. Dr Nduese Ekwere, as a means of containing the coronavirus pandemic in the state.
Reacting to the guidelines in a statement, Pastor Effiong, said the CAN’s agreement with the government on the guidelines would not be binding on members of the church.
He added that the use of face masks throughout the congregational worship as stipulated in the guidelines exposes worshippers to health hazards, noting that the seating arrangement of not more than 200 no matter the size of the church is a clear attempt to gag the church.
Making reference to the Nigerian Constitution to buttress his points, Effiong said the guidelines issued by the state government was against the fundamental right to worship and made it difficult to exercise one’s faith as a Christian.
He said, “Our church is a global ministry and we do not believe or advocate unionism, rather we believe in the unity of faith. Today, we state without equivocation that we are not members of CAN or any other association in the country and as such hold the strong belief that we cannot and should not be bounded by whatever decision the association reaches out with government.
“While we do not question the right of anybody or churches forming association nor are we against CAN or any association setting up guidelines for their members, it is unacceptable to believe that such guidelines will be binding on non-members of their groups.
“The use of face masks for the entire duration of congregational worship is an act, which has been scientifically proven to be hazardous to the health as uninterrupted use of face masks over a long period of time may cause hypoxia- the absence of oxygen to sustain bodily functions.
“Also, we are expected not to sit more than 200 worshippers during each church service, among others. This is a clear attempt to gag the church.”
The Founder of Christ Embassy, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome had earlier lashed out at Church leaders who agreed with the government to shut down churches to halt the spread of Coronavirus.