Millions of Christians in Nigeria on Sunday joined their counterparts around the world to mark Easter, a festival commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, as resident doctors continue to strike nationwide.
The Federal Government had declared public holidays on April 2 and 5 to mark the annual festival.
But celebrations are expected to be low-tempo as the nation’s economy continues to recover from a recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
And with unemployment at 33 percent, many Nigerians will be seeking solace in Easter’s promise of renewal.
To ensure security during the celebrations, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, has ordered all Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), State Commissioners of Police (CPs) to facilitate tight security of all public places and critical assets.
“They are also to ensure confidence-boosting, proactive and high visibility patrols are carried out along the highways, motor parks, train stations, airports, worship centres, banks, and other financial institutions while taking adequate measures to provide a peaceful, crime-free, and enabling environment for religious, cultural and other socio-economic activities to thrive,” the police chief said.
Don’t Let ‘Mischief Mongers’ Divide US
In his Easter message delivered via a statement on Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari had assured Nigerians that the insecurity currently ravaging the country will become a thing of the past.
“I am convinced that the new resolve within the security personnel to make sure that insecurity in the country becomes part of our history will come to pass,” Buhari, who is currently in London, the United Kingdom, said.
“We should not allow the antics of a few mischief mongers to fragment the unity and faith that the vast majority of citizens of this country cherish and believe in. As I’ve said before, we are better and stronger as one nation under God”, he said.
He recalled that just one year ago, restrictions were imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, dampening Easter celebrations.
“Today, we are able to congregate and worship together, cautiously,” he said. “I thank Nigerians who have religiously adhered to various interventions to curb the spread of COVID-19, including regular hand washing; safe distancing, wearing of face masks, and embrace of vaccination.
“We are united in our belief that if we do the right things, make the right decisions and act responsibly, the pandemic, like others before it, will no longer be a threat.”
As Christians celebrate Easter, the President said it was an opportunity to renew hope and faith, show love and appreciation to one another, and not to despair, no matter the challenges of the period.
“As a government, we will continue to ensure that the weak, the poor, and the underprivileged in our midst are not abandoned,” he said.
“We have reached out with palliative care even in the midst of dwindling resources; we have tried our best to provide support to families and businesses affected at this time.
“That is the spirit of Easter. The spirit of Faith. The spirit of Belief. The spirit of Hope.
“I congratulate our brothers and sisters once again on this occasion and wish everyone a Happy Easter celebration.”
Pray for security
Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has congratulated Nigerians on the occasion of the Easter celebrations, praying for an end to insecurity in the country.
CAN, in a statement issued on Friday by its President, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, said it was hopeful that the Easter season would help Nigeria overcome its current challenges.
“He that rolled away from the stone from the grave shall roll away insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen’s attacks, ritual killing, armed robbery, unemployment, and other challenges we are facing presently in this nation in the name of Jesus Christ,” the statement partly read.
“As they joy rejoiced at last when they saw the resurrected Lord, may you equally see the glory of God and be filled with everlasting joy in Jesus’ name.”
While asking Nigerians to be steadfast in prayers, CAN called on the citizens to exercise patience in tribulations.
The religious body said God can never fail his children, adding that the glorious morning of resurrection would come with patience and continuous prayers.
‘Reflect On Love, Sacrifice’
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has also urged Nigerians to use the occasion of Easter to pray for Nigeria’s unity and for peace to return to the country.
In his Easter message, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart said Easter is not only the time to be merry but also the time to reflect on love and sacrifice.
“The essence of Easter celebration is not merely for us to merry. It is a season to reflect on the purpose and meaning of love and sacrifice. Love, because God says we should love our neighbours as ourselves. And sacrifice because love is hardly practicable without an intention to make a sacrifice,” he said.
He also recalled how the coronavirus pandemic crippled many activities in most countries in the world last year.
He hailed the health workers who, like the example set by Jesus Christ, sacrificed their lives in battling the virus.