A combination of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic hardship took the shine off this year’s Christmas across the country, giving Nigerians an unusual festival.
Gone were the Christmas carols, Father Christmas shows, merry making at selected spots and visits to friends and relatives.
Christmas Day church services went almost unnoticed.
Some wondered if it was indeed Christmas period.
Some fun seekers in Abuja who defied the warning to steer clear of recreational parks were sent back home on Friday by agents of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).
Major markets opened for business in parts of Lagos, the chief commercial city.
Vehicular traffic was heavy in some areas.
But bars and relaxation centres were shut in line with government‘s directive.
The churches were not filled up with worshippers.
Many residents went about without a face mask.
In Osogbo, most of the churches recorded low attendance of worshippers.
These include All Souls Anglican Church, Oke-Fia; Jesus Christians Assembly, Asubiaro; Living Faith Church, Oke-Onitea; and Rehoboth Baptist Church, Okini.
An official of Living Faith Church said: “Usually, we hold three services 7:00 am-8:45 am, 8:50 am-10:25 am, 10:30 am-12 pm. But for the Christmas service of today we had only one service which started at 8:00 am and attendance was very low. We recorded 1,138 attendees,” as against the regular 1,700 per service.
By evening, bars and other relaxation centres in the state were filled to capacity.
Fun seekers paid scant attention to social distancing and use of face mask.
Warri residents blame COVID-19, high cost of goods for low-key Christmas
Residents of Warri and Effurun in Delta State blamed the ravaging COVID-19 and the high cost of goods and other consumables for the unusual Christmas day celebration.
Apart from the few people on major routes such as Airport Road, PTI Road and Warri-Sapele Road, some markets, including the popular Effurun Market in Uvwie council area, were opened for business. Traders said patronage was low.
A chicken trader said: “Ordinarily, I should be home now, but sales have been really low.
“We were selling broilers for N8,000 to N6,000 and reduced the price to N5,000. Yet, people are not buying like before.”
A resident, who identified himself as Patrick Amah, said with the second wave of Coronavirus, reportedly more virulent, a lot of people decided to stay safe in their homes.
“You know COVID-19 is getting high again and they say it is worse than before. So families are staying put in their homes.
“Phone and video calls should suffice for this year. It is safer that way. That is why you hardly see people about,” Amah said.
A computer analyst identified as Otejiro said “perhaps the restrictions placed to tackle the second wave of the deadly Coronavirus contributed to less people being out.
“The second thing is money. You and I know that things are very expensive. I know persons that didn’t by stuffs for their children, all because of money and high cost of things”.
The Delta State Government had announced the reinforcement of COVID-19 prevention guidelines as scheduled to take effect from on Friday.
Among the precautions are the compulsory use of facemasks in gatherings and business places, compulsory washing of hands with soap and water or use of hand sanitizers and a limited number of 50 persons in public places.
Commercial vehicle operators are also advised to ensure very high sanitary conditions of their vehicles, with a reduced number of passengers.
Low turnout in churches in Rivers
Church attendance was relatively low across Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on Friday.
Social distancing was observed in accordance with the Covid-19 protocols, but many people failed to wear facemasks.
The various churches provided hand washing points with water, soap and hand sanitizer jar placed beside the water buckets.
Most markets, especially food shops and chicken selling point were beehive of activities as buyers and sellers were busy, as well as those slaughtering and dressing the birds.
Buyers complained about the high cost of food items.
Bauchi residents defy Covid-19 protocol to celebrate Christmas
It was business as usual in major markets including Muda Lawal and Wunti markets and motor parks in Bauchi State yesterday.
It was observed that most of the residents did not observe Covid-19 protocols.
Even in churches, only a few worshippers were seen wearing facemasks.
Governor Bala Mohammed urged Christians in the state to use the period of the Christmas celebration to extend hands of fellowship to adherents of other religions for the sake of peace and security in the society.
He also enjoined churches to lead in the efforts to vanquish the covid-19 pandemic by constantly reminding their members of the need to adhere to the NCDC protocols of physical distancing, hand sanitation and wearing of face masks, among others.
Quiet Christmas in Plateau
It was generally quiet in Plateau State as many residents stayed indoors.
Some residents described the second wave of the COVID-19 as a blessing in disguise.
Mrs Nancy Pam described this year’s Christmas as uninteresting because of the restrictions brought about by Covid-19.
Most of the churches visited complied with the COVID-19 guidelines by providing hand washing facilities, temperature testing, wearing of face masks and hand sensitizers at the various gates of the churches.
Transport fares also went up, following the ban imposed by the state government on tricycle operators, forcing commuters to trek, due to scarcity of commercial vehicles.
Sokoto worshippers ignore COVID-19 protocols
Many worshippers in Sokoto State also did not pay much attention to the Covid-19 protocols during Friday’s Christmas day church services.
Although the churches made hand washing items available, most worshippers neither wore facemasks nor observe social distancing.
Task force clears Abuja recreational spots of fun seekers
Some fun seekers in Abuja who went to recreation spots in the city to celebrate Christmas were disappointed after they were sent back home by agents of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).
The FCT Ministerial Enforcement Task team on COVID-19 Restrictions cleared the Millennium Park, Jabi Lake, Unity Fountain and Magic Land of hundreds of fun seekers who had gone there for the day.
On sighting the FCT agents, some of the fun seekers took to their heels for fear of being arrested.
But the Taskforce called them back and sensitised them on the need to adhere to the safety regulations.
Head, Media and Enlightenment of the taskforce, Mr Ikharo Attah, who addressed the fun seekers, said the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic “seems tough and we cannot allow people to gather in crowds contrary to the directives of government.”
He added: “We know you all want to enjoy Christmas, but you can do it at home. We plead for your understanding on this matter.
“We don’t want to hurt anybody, but we have a duty to save residents from contracting the virus,” he stated.
Addressing journalists after shutting down the Magic Land Park by the Abuja city gate, Attah expressed sympathy with the residents but said there would be more celebrations in the future if they abide by the safety protocol.
He said: “We are truly pained doing this on this day, but we have the responsibility to save lives and protect FCT residents from catching COVID-19.
“We see in large numbers children who have come to these recreation centres to have the best of Christmas.
“They look obviously unhappy and we are feeling their pains and disappointment. There will be many Christmas, but please, let us not for this Christmas ruin the many more to come.”
Muslims, Christians attend service in Kaduna church to strengthen relationship
Muslims and Christians jointly worshipped in Kaduna on Friday to mark Christmas and strengthen good relationship between the faithful of the two religions.
Pastor Yohanna Buru, General Overseer, Christ Evangelical and Life Intervention Ministry, expressed appreciation for the large turnout of the Muslim faithful during the church service.
Buru said the Muslims joined their Christian friends and relatives in the service to promote the good relationship they shared.
According to him, Muslims from various states in the northern part of the country annually come to the church to celebrate Christmas with Christians.
“Even the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession did not stop them from coming.
“Muslims in large numbers visited the church and joined Christians during the Christmas service to foster peace and unity,” he said.
He appreciated the presence of Muslim brothers and sisters who came in large numbers to join in the celebrations.
“We must join hands and pray to Almighty God to bring an end to corruption, banditry, terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping and unnecessary killings of human beings in the region,” he said.