It really doesn’t matter whether you are old or young when you die, or whether you die from coronavirus or something else, we are all going to die someday. What matters is how we die. There are only but two ways in which we will all die; some will die and live, while others will die and perish. The truth is man was not created to die and perish; only the animals were created so. Unfortunately, many of us are going to go in the way of the animals. But it shouldn’t be so, at least for those of us still alive today, because of the ‘Good News’ available to us.
The Author of the Good News says, and I quote, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” This statement was documented by Apostle John, a man described as the closet friend of Jesus Christ, the Author of the Good News. It is an eye-witness statement, and so, it is true.
I know that there are many of us who do not believe in Jesus Christ, for various reasons, and that is fine. But this is my advice; if you do not have any other offer of life, in whom or from whatever you believe now, it is better to err on the side of caution, and take this offer from Jesus Christ; no one deserves to die like an animal.
If this piece is offensive to you, I apologize; please delete it. But if you are the inquisitive type, and you want to discuss further, please contact me @ email@example.com
Stay Safe and stay blessed.
Engr. Godwin Airuoyuwa is the author of the book Practical Christianity: Living Like the New Creature You Have become (2019). Copies could be purchased from Amazon or the publisher Shidaanikei Publishers @ firstname.lastname@example.org.]]>
ith the coronavirus quickly spreading in Washington state in early March, leaders of the Skagit Valley Chorale debated whether to go ahead with weekly rehearsal.
The virus was already killing people in the Seattle area, about an hour’s drive to the south.
But Skagit County hadn’t reported any cases. Schools and businesses remained open, and prohibitions on large gatherings had yet to be announced.
On March 6 Adam Burdick, the choir’s conductor, informed the 121 members in an email that, amid the “stress and strain of concerns about the virus,” practice would proceed as scheduled at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church.
“I’m planning on being there this Tuesday, March 10, and hoping many of you will be, too,” he wrote.
Sixty singers showed up. A greeter offered hand sanitiser at the door, and members refrained from the usual hugs and handshakes.
“It seemed like a normal rehearsal, except that choirs are huggy places,” Burdick recalled.
“We were making music and trying to keep a certain distance between each other.”
After 2 hours, the singers parted ways at 9 p.m.
Nearly three weeks later, 45 have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are ill with the symptoms, at least three have been hospitalised and two are dead.
The outbreak has stunned county health officials, who have concluded that the virus was almost certainly transmitted through the air from one or more people without symptoms.
“That’s all we can think of right now,” said Polly Dubbel, a county communicable disease and environmental health manager.
In interviews with the Los Angeles Times, eight people who were at the rehearsal said that nobody there was coughing or sneezing or appeared ill.
Everybody came with their own sheet music and avoided direct physical contact.
Some members helped set up or remove folding chairs. A few helped themselves to mandarins that had been put out on a table in back.
Experts said the choir outbreak is consistent with a growing body of evidence that the virus can be transmitted through aerosols – particles smaller than 5 micrometers that can float in the air for minutes or longer.
The World Health Organisation has downplayed the possibility of transmission in aerosols, stressing that the virus is spread through much larger “respiratory droplets,” which are emitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes and which fall quickly to a surface.
But a study published March 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that, when the virus was suspended in a mist under laboratory conditions, it remained “viable and infectious” for three hours – though researchers have said that period would probably be no more than a half-hour in real-world conditions.
One of the authors of that study, Jamie Lloyd-Smith, a University of California, Los Angeles infectious disease researcher, said it’s possible that the forceful breathing action of singing dispersed in the church room viral particles that were widely inhaled.
“One could imagine that really trying to project your voice would also project more droplets and aerosols,” he said.
With three-quarters of the choir members testing positive for the virus or showing symptoms of infection, the outbreak would be considered a “super-spreading event,” he said.
Linsey Marr, an environmental engineer at Virginia Tech and an expert on airborne transmission of viruses, said some people happen to be especially good at exhaling fine material, producing 1,000 times more than others.
Marr said that the choir outbreak should be seen as a powerful warning to the public.
“This may help people realize that, hey, we really need to be careful,” she said.
The Skagit Valley Chorale draws its members from across northwest Washington and often sells out its winter and spring concerts at the 650-seat McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon.
Amateur singers interested in choral music tend to be older, but the group includes some young adults.
Last year, Burdick worked some hip-hop into one number.
The next big performance on the group’s schedule was in late April, peak tourist season, when the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival attracts more than a million people to view brilliant hues in meadows surrounding Mount Vernon.
The festival would soon be canceled, but nothing had been announced yet and the choir was continuing to prepare.
Carolynn Comstock and her husband, Jim Owen, carpooled to the March 10 practice from the nearby city of Anacortes with their friends Ruth and Mark Backlund.
Carolynn and Jim, who ran a home remodeling business together, had been singing with the choir for 15 years and thought of it as a centering force in their lives.
They had introduced the Backlunds to the choir.
The two couples entered the rented church hall – roughly the size of a volleyball court – and offered their hands for the disinfectant.
Cushioned metal chairs extended in six rows of 20, with about a foot between chairs and one aisle down the center.
There were twice as many seats as people.
Comstock, a soprano, and Owen, a tenor, took their usual seats beside each other in the third row. The rows toward the front and centre filled up around them.
Burdick, 49, stood facing his choir, with an accompanist to his right seated at a grand piano.
Given the anxiety over the coronavirus, the conductor decided to lead off with a piece called “Sing On”.
The singers inhaled deeply, and sang the chorus with gusto: “Sing on! Whatever comes your way, sing on! Sing on!”
The choir moved on to other numbers, including a popular spiritual piece written by gospel legend Thomas A. Dorsey: “If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need Him now.”
At one point the members broke into two groups, each standing around separate pianos to sing.
When it was time to leave, Burdick’s wife, Lorraine, a contralto who also sang professionally, refrained from her custom of embracing friends.
Instead, she curtsied her goodbyes.
Three days later, Comstock felt chills. A sweater didn’t help. She took her temperature: 99.3.
She and Owen canceled their plans for dinner that night at the Backlunds’ house.
At 9 p.m., she got a text from Ruth Backlund. Ruth, 72, and Mark, 73, had fevers.
Burdick woke up the next day, March 14, with a fever.
As his temperature rose to 103, he began hearing from other choir singers.
They felt fatigued and achy. Some had fevers, coughs, and shortness of breath they had heard were telltale symptoms of COVID-19.
Some had nausea and diarrhea.
On March 15, Comstock, 62, noticed something odd when she made pasta.
She couldn’t taste the sauce, a spicy Italian sausage.
She would soon learn that loss of taste and smell was a common symptom too.
When Owen, 66, first felt sick that day, he found that his temperature was below normal, a symptom that continued.
The same day, the Backlunds tested negative for influenza.
Their clinic sent out their samples for coronavirus tests, which would come back four days later showing they both had COVID-19.
On March 17, a choir member alerted Skagit County Public Health about the outbreak.
Working from the choir’s membership roster, a dozen health officers scrambled for three days to contain the outbreak.
They called every member, determining who had attended the rehearsal.
They asked each person with symptoms to list their close contacts during the 24 hours before illness set in.
Then they called those people, telling anyone who felt sick to quarantine themselves.
“We think it was just a really super-unfortunate, high-risk occurrence,” said Dubbel, the county health official.
Mark Backlund felt himself slipping, but not as badly as a friend a decade younger, a runner, who was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia. Both men would ultimately recover.
On March 18, Burdick received a message from Nancy “Nicki” Hamilton, an 83-year-old soprano, known for her political activism and tales of international travel.
She was worried about a fellow member.
Three days later, he received another call. Hamilton had been rushed to the hospital soon after he had talked with her and now she was dead.
Word quickly spread among the choir members, many of them sick and left to grieve alone in their homes.
Health officials said all 28 choir members who were tested for COVID-19 were found to be infected.
The other 17 with symptoms never got tested, either because tests were not available or _ like Comstock and Owen _ the singers were under the impression that only people in dire condition were eligible.
The youngest of those sickened was 31, but they averaged 67, according to the health department.
In their split-level home, Burdick and his wife kept distance between themselves for a week. But Lorraine got sick anyway.
The Burdicks had been heartened to hear that another woman in the hospital – an alto in her 80s – seemed to be getting better.
But this past Friday, the conductor got another call. She had died.
And another woman, a tenor, had been rushed to the hospital.
Others felt the disease waning. Fifteen days after the rehearsal, Comstock squirted shampoo into her hand and experienced an odd and pleasing sensation.
It smelled. Like coconut.
Marr, the Virginia Tech researcher, said that the choir outbreak reminded her of a classic case study in the spread of infectious disease.
In 1977, an Alaska Airlines flight returned to Homer, Alaska, after experiencing engine trouble and sat on the tarmac there for four hours with the ventilation system off.
Of the 49 passengers on board, 35 developed flu symptoms and five were hospitalized.
Researchers ultimately traced the outbreak to a woman who felt fine when she boarded but later became ill.
The case jolted epidemiologists into the realisation that influenza could spread through the air.
Research has already shown that the coronavirus is nearly twice as contagious as influenza and far more deadly.
There is still much to learn about the choir outbreak, starting with the original source of the virus.
Dubbel, the county official, said she hoped that a study would be conducted someday to determine how the infection spread. But for now, her team is swamped trying to contain additional outbreaks.
Some leaders of the churches, who spoke to newsmen on Sunday in Port Harcourt, said that the church was committed to the fight against the dreaded disease.
Mr James Ata, Senior pastor, School Road branch, Deeper Life Bible Church in Port Harcourt, said that his branch received directive from the headquarters in Lagos urging them on effective distancing pattern.
“We resolved to split into three worship sessions instead of the normal combined single service formation usually observed during Sunday services
“As part of measures to observe social distancing and to further curb the spread of the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic in worship centers, we hosted up to three services today with about 46 worshipers in each session.
“Our crowd control unit did a great job by ensuring that we didn’t host more than 50 persons in each of our services.
“Our branch is not too large so we were able to manage the crowd effectively,” Ata said.
However, other churches with very large congregation ended up conducting over eight worship sessions on hourly schedule.
The Omega Power Ministries (OPM), Redeemed Christian Church and others were amongst churches that hosted several sessions so as to be able to accommodate as much worshippers as possible.
Newsmen also gathered that the routine house fellowships usually observed on Sunday evenings by most Pentecostal churches have been suspended till further notice.
Mrs Better Ben, one of the home cell coordinators of Joyful Assembly Ministries said she received directive from the church headquarters suspending routine home fellowships till further notice.
“The church is adopting this strategy on social distancing, prayers as well as other sensitisation methods in the fight against the corona virus pandemic,” she said.
Newsmen also gathered that the Catholic churches in the State have suspended all masses till further notice.
“Shutting down churches would be like shutting down hospitals,” Mr Oyedepo said during March 22 Sunday service that streamed live online. “There are many, many places that would never have any medical solution but in church.”
Mr Oyedepo held the service at the headquarters of his Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) on the outskirts of Lagos on Sunday morning, the same day that Nigeria’s coronavirus infections jumped to 30 and health experts were raising alarm about the importance of social distancing.
A police spokesperson told PREMIUM TIMES officers showed up to ask Mr Oyedepo not to hold service for the health benefit of his members and society, but he proceeded nonetheless.
The preacher held two services within hours apart even though the government had placed an indefinite moratorium on religious gathering amidst scramble to contain the spread of the virus.
The service in Sango-Ota, which falls under Ogun State but keeps a close proximity with the nation’s commercial capital, held without provision of hand sanitisers to members, according to two people who attended.
“They also did not check for our temperature before hundreds of us went into the church for service,” Tunmise Ogunlolu, a member of the church, told PREMIUM TIMES. “But everyone was visibly afraid throughout the service.
Ms Ogunlolu said she and many others attended the programme to see whether Mr Oyedepo would announce indefinite suspension of service pending the containment of COVID-19, “but I was not too disappointed that he did not postpone.
“The anointing that we received at church yesterday was very important to myself and other members,” she added. “But I am not sure I will take the risk again next week.”
Another member who attended the service said it was “obviously scanty.”
Winners Chapel boasts of some of the largest congregations in Nigeria. Its headquarters can hold as many as 250,000 people during overflow, and Mr Oyedepo himself has once been listed amongst world’s richest pastors by Forbes, Reuters reported. The church also has hundreds of other branches in Nigeria and other countries.
Although the headquarters, officially dubbed Canaan Land by the church, had long assumed a community of its own, some of its administrative functions are still subject to state and federal laws in Nigeria.
Yet, the church was left out when law enforcement authorities besieged worship centres across Lagos and Ogun to enforce social distancing measures on Sunday. Several churches were closed in downtown Lagos and some communities in Ogun for apparent violation of a widely publicised ban on gatherings of more than 50 persons. The number has been reviewed downward to only 20 in Lagos.
But the fear of security agencies to enforce the ban at Canaan Land might not be unconnected with Mr Oyedepo’s towering influence and friendship with political bigwigs across the country.
A spokesperson who declined to provide his name even though his number was listed on the church’s website said he was just learning from PREMIUM TIMES that service held.
“I never knew there would be service today, you are just telling me now that you saw the evidence on the Internet,” the official said, promising without fulfilling to call back and provide clarification.
Above the pack
Winners Chapel appeared to be the only church in its category that held service against public health directive on Sunday. A cascade of Sunday service cancelations began amongst other mega and minor pentecostal churches across the country following meetings with state governments throughout the week.
Some churches, like the Commonwealth Zion Assembly and Methodist Church Nigeria, that initially asked members to show up for Sunday service later decided against it at the eleventh-hour, urging their members to obey public safety directives instead.
Most of the churches used the Internet and other forms of mass media to pass message to their members at home on Sunday.
Mr Oyedepo himself acknowledge the essence of government’s directive in statements preceding his declaration that the church was more important than the hospital for some members.
“Every measure being taken is only to preserve lives,” Mr Oyedepo said. “We will subscribe fully to whatever preserves lives.”
He also said churches are coming up with other means of passing sermon to members outside the church, saying it would help “avoid up and down movement.”
Yet, the preacher said he would continue to hold physical Sunday service for potentially thousands of members in continuous violation of existing public order.
“It is not a number of people that makes fellowship, it is the gathering of the brethren,” he said.
Although the legality of the shelter-in-place directive of governors has been a subject of debate on social media, the police have said they would enforce it because it has the support of the majority.
Abimbola Oyeyemi, Ogun police spokesperson, told PREMIUM TIMES officers were at Canaan Land on Sunday to enforce compliance, but Mr Oyedepo and his ministers thwarted their efforts.
“Police officers were there to caution them but they refused and held their service,” Mr Oyeyemi said.
Mr Oyeyemi admitted to PREMIUM TIMES that the church’s action was inappropriate, but officers had overlooked it with the hope that such would not happen again going forward.
“We hope that by next week Sunday they would listen to the voice of reason and comply,” the police chief said. “Nobody is above the law.”
Mbaka urged Nigerians not to be afraid or panic of the deadly Coronavirus because it would soon be a thing of the past.
He gave the charge at a program at the Enugu Adoration ground during a special prayer for the elimination of the disease.
Mbaka said: “To those who believe in God, all things are possible. No matter how it has defied people, it cannot defy God.
“Children of God, when you go home, circulate the message that a man of God known as Fr. Ejike Mbaka told you to not be afraid of coronavirus, be courageous it will soon be a thing of the past.
“Fear is a dangerous omen if you become perplexed; it shows that you don’t believe so much on God’s power. Ebola came, it died off.
This one will also die off. It is like bird flu disease, it will come and go. I know that the whole world is waiting to hear for the message that will come out from this place, but the message I have is that the disease will soon go.
In similar news, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, the founder of Christ Embassy also known as the Believers Love World, has publicly denounced coronavirus, which he referred to as ‘demonic work’
Oyakhilome shared a video on his social media page, where he was spotted binding and casting the disease.
General Overseers, Pastors should sacrifice from tithes, offerings
Churches amass wealth, collecting money from poor people
Reducing salaries, allowances ‘ll not solve funding problem
Pastors are manipulators, they don’t have moral right to advise politicians
Dayo Johnson, Ola Ajayi, Anayo Okoli,Samuel Oyadongha, Umar Yusuf, Marie-Therese Nanlong,Rotimi Ojomoyela, Peter Okutu, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinonso Alozie, Eric Ugbor, Shina Abubakar, James Ogunnaike
couple of weeks ago, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye stirred the hornets’ nest. He called on all the 36 state governors and members of the State Houses of Assembly to cut their salaries and emoluments by 50 per cent in order to tackle the challenges the state governments were facing in education, health and other critical sectors.
In their reactions, members of the executive and the legislature disagreed with Pastor Adeboye’s proposal arguing that the church should lead the way by sacrificing a percentage of their tithes and offerings. According to them, the churches amass wealth by collecting money from their members with pastors buying private jets while their members could not even afford to send their children to the schools established by theses churches with their money.
Hon Success Torhukerhijo- Member, Ondo State House of Assembly representing Ese- Odo constituency.
“Let me tell you straight away that our responsibilities in our different constituencies surpass what we even earn as salaries. What we earn is even too small and considering a reduction is out of it. Calling for a reduction is not even possible because it’s only when you earn bogus salaries that you would contemplate that a reduction won’t affect you. But in a situation that what you even earn is not enough for you and your family then what we should be talking about should be how it can be increased. So a reduction in whatever guise is unacceptable. What we earn as legislators is not comparable to the enormous responsibilities that we face on daily basis in our constituencies.
A commissioner in Ondo state who spoke in confidence said that the responsibilities politicians shoulder in their constituencies “is nothing compared to what the clergyman is asking us to sacrifice again. “You won’t believe it that many political appointees seldom travel to their constituencies because of the pressure from their people. Many party members believe we pluck money from trees going by the demands on us. The salaries we earn is not even enough to cater for our family members not to think of sacrificing 50 percent for development of infrastructures. It’s not possible. Let the General Overseers and Pastors too sacrifice from the tithes and other offerings they collect from their church members. How much is even our salary that someone is asking that it should be reduced by 50 percent.
Hon Femi Akindele, Member, Ekiti State House of Assembly
If that is coming from a renowned person like Baba Adeboye I want to agree with that, assuming without conceding that he’s saying the obvious. If our salary from even the Presidency to the last person which is the councillor is to be slashed by 50% we all welcome it, if the religious leaders like him can as well sacrifice all the money that accrued to his office by taking care of the indigents within their various denominations. So that will even encourage those of us who are political office holders to even go further than even 50% , because as it is today, it is the political office holders that the people, the masses turn to for help on a daily basis, it is the political office holders that people will come to their various houses for school fees, for hospital bills, for health challenges and several other things, yet the churches are the ones amassing this wealth collecting money from these poor people without giving back anything commensurate. They are the ones establishing the schools that their members can’t afford to send their wards to”
Hon Bamidele Faparusi; Ekiti State Commissioner for Infrastructure and Public Utilities
“It is not the salaries of political office holders that is the problem, because they have their role to play in the system, they leave their other means of livelihood to focus on governance, otherwise they would not dedicate their required time for governance. Another important issue is how they would be able to justify whatever earnings they are getting from tax payers money. The treasury is depleted when public office holders use their office to get more outside their remuneration. How much is the salary that you want to reduce by 50%? If a Commissioner is taking N320,000, how do you reduce it by half ? My General Manager in my private office is earning more than me presently, even as a commissioner. I’m doing almost 24 hours work and still have political responsibilities, people are coming to seek assistance here and there. You have followers, you are a politician, people expect so much from you, so if you say you are halving it, it is better you say it is a voluntary work, then you come to work when you choose to come and attend to people at your leisure. I don’t see the remuneration as exorbitant as people portrayed it. When you look at the National Assembly, the salary of Reps member is N700,000, while that of Senator is N900,000, which is not too much. The overhead of the National Assembly is what they need to look at and not their salaries, the overhead is too much. Even that of governance is too high, people should focus on it, not remuneration of people in governance, their remuneration is okay, compared to what people in private sector is taking”.
Hon Yemisi Ayokunle, Chairman House Committee on Media and Public Communication
“Is he aware of the package? Does he know the problems we solve for our constituents? Does he know the enormity of the demands from our constituents? What we received is not enough to meet the needs of our constituents, not to talk of our immediate families. Our population is increasing by the day and the truth is that man’s needs are insatiable, so we have to keep on going like that, managing our resources, managing our health, on a daily basis. I don’t think there is going to be an end or permanent solution to funding problem, it will keep on going on till Jesus comes”.
Senator Sefiu Adegbenga Kaka (Ogun East Senatorial District, 2011 – 2015)
“Everybody is entitled to whatever opinion they have. How much is the salary of public office holders in the country. Can that one be of any use, when we have billions of naira going out through leakages.
When it is obvious that more than 50% of what is being declared as our barrels of oil are actually being siphoned away through illegal bunkering. Even, the amount budgeted is still being siphoned away out of the system. What we need to do is to block all loopholes. We should first of all block all the loopholes, conserve whatever we have and tame our appetite. It is not only public office holders alone, civil servants, religious leaders, public sector people, including the traditional rulers. We just need to control our appetites. It is when we do this that we will be good role models to those coming behind us.
We need to make sacrifices. It is this sacrifice which must go down to the grassroot that will save us. Not only that, we must increase our productivity level. We are too lazy in this country, nobody wants to work again but we have to work and then eat.
Chief Bisi Akande, former governor, Osun
“We don’t need Pastor Adeboye’s intervention to understand the enormity of the problem in the country, but this generation of politicians’ major zeal is money rather zeal to serve their respective communities.
I was a councilor for nine years in Ila and I was living in Lagos. I would come to Ila every week for meetings without collecting a dime. I was driven by passion to serve not money, because I was even spending my money. Reducing salaries and allowances would not solve the problem, rather the new generation of politicians should change their orientation and focus on service instead of thinking about the money they would make.
Hon. Adeyemi Adewumi, lawmaker representing Oboku State constituency, Osun state House of Assembly
“There is nothing bad in slashing the salaries of political office holders to take care of health and educational facilities because the country is in dire need of funds to execute social services programmes. But this is not enough, neither will it guarantee good governance or ensure delivery of dividends of democracy to the populace. Beyond slashing salaries, we must strive to ensure there is good governance, accountability and transparency in the polity. The country does not have enough, but the fund it has must be adequately monitored and accounted for. We must ensure that government does not only generate revenue, but ensure that there is efficiency in the fund allocated to provision of welfare service delivery. To slash salary is a good idea, but beyond that, as a country, we must ensure that there is monitoring mechanism that guarantees service delivery.
Dan Manjang, Plateau State Commissioner for Information and Communication
“It is not the governors or the lawmakers or the political appointees that determine or fix their salaries. It is the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission, and they have guidelines on how they arrived at that. It is not for governors to say they would cut their salaries or for any political appointee to say you will cut your salary, that rests squarely with the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission. Once they do that and it is backed by law, the governors or any political appointee does not have an option but to key in”
In Bayelsa State the outgoing Governor Seriake Dickson in 2014 reduced the salary of his appointees in by 50 per cent. The measure, Governor Dickson had said, was to free funds for critical capital projects and other sectors of the state.
Alfred Kemepado an aide to the Bayelsa governor: “scaling down emoluments of political office holders is not in anyway the solution. The problem of this country is that we have incompetent people who don’t even have the interest of the people at heart. Sometimes, ‘democratic’ thugs are leading the affairs who ordinarily should not be in leadership position in government. We have a people who are not ready to interrogate government sincerely, fearlessly and sacrificially, that is the problem.
Hon. Oliver Osi, representing Ivo state constituency in Ebonyi State House of Assembly
“The presidency has always called the shots blaming other arms and making it seem as if the problem is from the others. Since the presidency has always called the shots, let the cut begin with them, then other arms will follow. The emolument of the parliamentarian is not for him alone and by the time you check those who are dependent on that emoluments it will occur to you that he may not be taking much after all. But that is not to say that there are no states that are earning much and to whom much is given much is also expected”.
Chief Solomon Akpulonu, Majority Leader, Abia State House of Assembly,
The call should not be made in the first place because the salaries and allowances paid to political office holders are not even enough. The impression of bogus salary for law makers was borne of
ignorance on what lawmakers undergo in representing their constituents. Lawmakers in Nigeria spend huge amount of money ranging from rendering assistance to constituents to even grading of roads
which are clearly beyond their duties. Salaries and allowances paid to lawmakers are not commensurate with their activities and should be increased. The basic functions of a lawmaker are lawmaking, oversight and representation but you can’t ignore the needs of your constituents. I continue to render assistance to my constituents in the area of paying their children’s school fees, hospital bills and giving soft loans for them to start small scale businesses. These are some of the things a lawmaker does outside his core function, and you must do them to assist your constituents. These funds come from the meager salaries and allowances paid to us which are not even enough. Therefore, any call for the lawmakers’ entitlements to be slashed is clearly misplaced and borne out of ignorance on what a good
lawmaker undergoes in representing his constituency”
Arthur Egwim representing Ideato North state constituency, Imo state House of Assembly
The pastors should first of all tell the public what they do with the tithe they have been collecting; secondly, they have been the ones leading expensive life style, with some of them buying private jets for themselves. These pastors are the ones collecting tithes and calling politicians to come and donate money to their churches. These pastors have been buying private jets. What have they done?
They are the ones causing the problem in Nigeria, do you know how many Honorable members that are paying tithes? Have you gone to their universities, do you know how much they collect in their universities? They are all manipulators, they can not advise me as a politician because they don’t have
that moral right. The problem of Nigeria is religion”.
In Adamawa, a Permanent Secretary in one the ministries in the state who spoke on condition of anonymity however said the call was in order since the government functionaries are working for the betterment of the ordinary Nigerians. He stressed that governments across the states should formulate laws to that effect, stressing that such laws should be uniform in all the states.
Another top government functionary in the state said our legislators, both at the states and national levels are only enacting laws that will always suit their purposes.
A public Affairs Commentator, Mohammed Ismail said, “Nigerian politicians both elected and appointed into various offices will never agree to a cut in their salaries or emoluments for the sake of infrastructural development. They do not have the interest of the nation at heart to implement such a proposal”.
The minister of religious affairs stated that it was not about religion, but about being Sudanese. The ruling interim government has even appointed a Coptic Christian to a powerful position in a show of reconciliation and equality. With the progressive actions of the new ruling government, the country has been delisted from the United States list of countries that suppress religious freedom. It has been on that list for 20 years. While Sudan, a predominantly Muslim country has been delisted, Christian-majority Nigeria has just recently been included on that list with the persecution and massacre of Christians in the country by Fulani Muslims herdsmen with little to nothing being done by the Buhari-led government to address the situation.
– NNP News]]>
Cuba and Nicaragua were also added to the list.
“No country, entity, or individual will be able to persecute people of faith with impunity,” United States’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo said. “These religious freedom designations show that when faith is attacked, we will act.”
There is no official response from the Nigerian government yet.
The West African country may be designated Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 if religious persecutions continue, the State Department said.
Although the State Department said in a statement that Nigeria is on the SWL list, a report published by the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom showed the country is already classified as a CPC.
USCIRF said “continued systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief” in Nigeria should have earned the country a place on the official CPC list since 2009.
The US accused the Nigerian government of tolerating violence and discrimination based on religion or belief, and suppression of the freedom to manifest religion or belief.
It said religious sectarian violence increased in 2018, with Muslims and Christians attacked based on their religious and ethnic identity.
“The Nigerian federal government failed to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable,” USCIRF said.
Legacy of intolerance
It is not the only the American government that has accused Nigeria of systemic religious intolerance and persecution.
Amnesty International earlier in December accused Nigerian troops of forcibly removing of headscarves of female members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a Shia group popularly in northern Nigeria. AI said the soldiers also beat and insulted the religious conservative women.
IMN Ibrahim El Zakzaky has been in detention since 2015 after a violent faceoff with troops during a religious procession in Zaria.
Amnesty said about 350 members of the group were killed in the violence and were buried in mass graves. But the official toll was far lower.
The group has had several violent clashes with Nigerian security authorities in subsequent years.
“More than 150 more IMN members were subsequently killed in Kaduna, Jos, Bauchi Sokoto, Funtua and Abuja,” Amnesty International said.
Apart from the official crackdown against the Nigerian Shiite group, USCIRF said scores of Christians and Muslims were killed in different parts of northern Nigeria, especially in Plateau State allegedly by “Muslim Youth Militia”.
Despite the damning report, USCIRF said the American government is committed to continuing its humanitarian support to Nigeria and for the fight against Boko Haram insurgency.
However, Pompeo said the United States will continue to challenge Nigeria and other entities that seek to infringe upon those fundamental rights and to ensure they are held to account for their actions.
U.K. Government, through the Charity Commission, has opened an inquiry into the activities of a Nigerian-owned church, SPAC Nation.
According to The Mail On Sunday and HuffPost UK, the church is run by 39-year-old Pastor Tobi Adegboyega.
According to the Evening Standard, Adegboyega once shared a room with his cousin, Star Wars actor, John Boyega, after moving to London from Nigeria.
The church is being investigated over allegations that pastors were pressuring young people in the congregation to sell their own blood to raise funds, Mail on Sunday reported.
“The Charity Commission said it has opened an inquiry into SPAC Nation to probe financial and safeguarding concerns after claims emerged that pastors had encouraged worshippers to take out loans in order to pay for the church’s lavish spending,”Mail on Sunday claimed.
The commission has ordered the church to deposit all its money in the bank while the investigation lasts.
Trouble allegedly started after the Huffington Post alleged in a report that some members of SPAC Nation had been taking teenagers to donate blood for medical trials in a practice known as “bleeding for seed”.
TheMail On Sundayhad alleged that parishioners were encouraged to raise £100,000 a week; whileHuffPost UKalleged that young church members claimed that some members go to donate blood and are paid up to £100 by medical trial companies.
“This money is then handed by the young people over to the church’s pastors,”HuffPostUK said.
The reports further alleged that while members were told to raise “the seed” through whatever means – including if they had to “beg, borrow or steal,” pastors in the church cruise around town in £150,000 Rolls-Royces and a Lamborghini with personalised number plates such as ‘Pastor R.R.”