Precious Igbonwelundu, Lagos; Augustine Okezie, Katsina; Osagie Otabor, Akure; Ogochukwu Anioke, Abakaliki; Adekunle Jimoh, Ilorin; AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna; Kolade Adeyemi, Kano; Elo Edremoda, Warri; Yinka Adeniran, Ibadan and Polycarp Orosevwotu, Ughelli
It was a low-key affair in most states as Christians marked Easter indoors.
The special occasion was devoid of the funfair of previous years as worshippers complied with lockdown measures to halt the spread of coronavirus.
At the Presidential Villa, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo ministered online, following the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocol on physical distancing.
He reminded Christians of the solemn sacrifice of Jesus Christ and its significance.
In a message titled: Criminals on the cross, he said the account of Christ’s death was an extraordinary story.
Citing Luke 23:32-34, 39-43, the Vice President said Jesus paid the price for sins of the world.
According to him, the account is an inspiring message of redemption and a succinct statement of what the good news is all about.
Like the Vice-President, most Christians marked Easter at home.
Residents of Jos, the Plateau State capital, complied with the state’s lockdown. Only those on essential duty were seen on the roads.
Most worshippers relied on their electronic devices to listen to Easter messages from clerics locally and globally.
In Kwara State, many churches conducted stay-home and online services.
The state government had announced a total lockdown effective 6pm last Friday.
The Living Faith Church (aka Winners Chapel) had directed its members to observe the Easter Sunday service at home or hook up to the headquarters.
Law enforcement agents stationed at strategic locations in Ilorin arrested some residents who violated the total lockdown order.
In Kaduna, churches were shut in compliance with the state’s lockdown directive.
Our correspondent observed that guards were outside the gates to prevent unauthorised entry into the churches.
At the St. Andrew Catholic Church, Kakuri, where Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukkah presided before moving to Sokoto, the security man told our correspondent that he has been instructed not to open the church for any worshipper.
In Kano State, the few churches that opened recorded low attendance.
At the Lady of Fatima Catholic Church on Sabo Gari, an usher said only 50 worshippers were allowed in at a time.
She said six different services were arranged to reduce the crowd, with three worshippers allowed on a long wooden seat meant for 10.
A resident, Mrs Martha Emmanuel, said she had never experienced such a bleak Easter.
“Since l was born, l have never experienced this kind of bleak Easter. Everywhere is blocked! There is no money, no free movement.
“You cannot visit your friend. You cannot freely visit your relatives, because of the fear of this COVID-19,” she said.
Churches in Akure, the Ondo State capital, and other parts of the state were shut during the Easter celebration as directed by the government.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu rescinded his decision to allow churches hold services after a Murtala Mohammed Airport employee tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
A visit to some churches in Akure showed that they obeyed the governor’s directive.
Many Christian families in Enugu State capital worshipped online to mark the day.
Most of the churches visited were locked, such as the St Paul’s Catholic Church, Awkunanaw, Emmanuel Anglican Church, Achara Layout, and some Pentecostal churches on Agbani Road.
A resident of the state, Mr Ikem Odenigbo told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that he joined the church service conducted by Pope Francis in the morning on the television.
It was also a quiet affair in Warri, the Delta State capital, due to the restriction.
Security operatives were seen enforcing the sit-at-home order by the government at strategic locations.
Road blocks were mounted at Enerhen Junction, Airport Junction, Jakpa Junction and DSC Roundabout to restrict movement.
Churches in Nasarawa State observed the government’s restriction order on gathering to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
A NAN correspondent who went round Lafia, the state capital, observed that all churches were under lock and key.
CAN Chairman Joseph Masin, who is the Bishop of Word of God Ministry, said that all Christians celebrated the Easter in their houses.
In Oyo State, this year’s Easter celebration was low key.
Many worshippers had hoped that Governor Seyi Makinde would relax the ban on religious gathering, but their hopes were dashed.
However, some churches, especially new generation ones, beat the directive to hold services.
Easter Sunday in Okota, Lagos State, was devoid of the usual fanfare as most churches in the predominantly Christian community were shut in compliance with the lockdown order.
Some churches had notices informing worshippers to connect to their headquarters via television, Facebook or YouTube channels for live fellowships.
However, a few worshippers who were seen clinging to their bibles said they attended cell fellowships at the homes of some members with participants not exceeding 10.
A beautician, Mrs. Maureen Soho, said there was no way she would not have fellowshipped with other Christian brethren on Easter Sunday because joint prayers helped her grow stronger in faith.
Most eateries and malls in the area witnessed low patronage even as few shoppers were seen in local markets on on Sunday morning.
There was no police presence on Ago Palace Way as commercial motorcyclists operated freely.
But it was business as usual in some states where restrictions were relaxed for Easter.
In Katsina State, our reporter observed that the Catholic Church held services.
A CAN leader, Very Reverend Nelson Onyekachukwu, told our reporter that church services were held throughout the state.
He praised Governor Aminu Bello Masari for relaxing the lockdown measures.
In Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, church services held following Governor Yahaya Bello’s lifting of the ban on religious services.
At the Winners Chapel, Phase 1, it was a full house, as worshippers thronged the Lokoja church headquarters.
At the Catholic Cathedral Lokoja, attendance at the Easter Sunday mass was more controlled
Also in Ebonyi State, Easter services were held after Governor David Umahi relaxed the lockdown.
The services, however, did not go beyond the noon deadline as most churches closed the services around that time.
At St John’s Catholic Church, it was observed that though the church held Sunday Mass, social distancing was observed.
It was a similar scenario at the St Theresa’s Cathedral and St Patrick’s Church and other churches in Abakaliki, the state capital.
Christians in parts of Borno State marked Easter in defiance of the lockdown order.
NAN reports that churches in New GRA, Post Office, Wulari, Bulumkutu and Polo areas remained open for services.
They include Christian Church, First Baptist Church, EYN Church Maiduguri, Living Faith Church, Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri and Saint Patrick Catholic Church.