Why Wike is doing everything to protect lives of Rivers people
DID Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike act out of order by demolishing hotels that were alleged to have violated a order issued by the state to protect the lives of residents of the state? In matters of governance, which should come first: Is it the interest of the few (since the hotels in question are said to be owned by individuals said to have link with the governor’s political party, Peoples Democratic Party) or the collective good and wellbeing of the majority by ensuring they are protected from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic? All these are the questions that many Nigerians have been asking since the hotel demolition incident in Rivers State occurred.
When penultimate week the Rivers State governor proclaimed the Order 006 as part of his government’s efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state and declared that hotels and business premises that flouted the order would be demolished, people waved it away as one of the so many such government orders and regulations that were never enforced.
As for the people, they were more worried about personal survival and other aspects of the order which imposed total lockdown on the two local government areas that make up the Rivers State capital, the Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas. So when the axe of the government fell on two hotels, Prodest Hotel Alode Eleme and Etemete Hotel Onne, both in Eleme local government area, there was shock all around.
The demolition followed an announcement by the government the previous day that the two outfits were found to have contravened the Order 006 and would be demolished. The Youth Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Princewill Osaroejij, was declared wanted over allegation that he orchestrated the violence against the state demolition task force leading to the death of one of its members.
Though the exercise since then has been drawing reactions with the human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, especially condemning him, many others have praised the governor for his courage and decision to place the lives of his people above all interests.
Wike while giving explaining for his actions said, he was not ready to trade the lives of Rivers people for financial considerations, insisting that the Executive Order 6, which banned the operation of hotels across the 23 Local Government Areas of the state, is meant to safeguard the lives of all Rivers people.
He said: “Government has no alternative but to apply the Executive order which I signed before the lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt. I called all the Traditional Rulers and Council Chairmen and told them to ensure that no hotel operates in the state.
“We said no hotel should operate within this period. Unfortunately, the PDP Youth Leader in Eleme joined others to flout the Executive Order.
“Whether you are PDP or not, all we are saying is that nobody is above the law. If we can do this to a PDP person, then you know we are not discriminatory. Everyone must obey. Whether you are in PDP, SDP or no party, you must obey the law. If any other person does the same thing, the same rule will apply.
“We said if any hotel operates, government will bring down that hotel. We are doing what we have told people that we are going to do. We are not saying it will be forever. This is for now, so that we know where we are. To reduce the cases and check the spread.
“Nobody wants to obey any rules. We are saying just for now, keep off, let us see how we can keep our people safe”, the governor added.
According to Wike, his government decided to focus on hotels was due to the fact that one of the cases in the state spread the virus from a hotel.
“Look at the rate of infections,» he explained,»most of these people are found in hotels. Look at the man that died, he was at Mingi Hotel in Rumumasi. Due to that contact, we have had other seven cases.”
Partying with COVID-19 pandemic
Sunday Tribune learnt that a whistle blower allegedly had informed the state Convid19 committee that there was a large number of people in the hotel. That they partied all night and the hotel also was housing prostitutes.
According to other sources the committee went for confirmation but met resistance from the hotel owner. It was also alleged the that the PDP Youth leader of Eleme Local Government Area had led the resistance which allegedly led to the eventual death of one of the task force members.
But another source closed to hotel claimed that the hotel had closed to the public following the announcement of the Order 6 leaving only the manager of the hotel, Bariledum Job Azoroh and a few other persons present to secure the facility, saying that the confrontation between the task force officials and the Eleme PDP, Youth Leader was outside the hotel.
The PDP leader, however, in a statement denied any wrongdoing alleging that a serving commissioner was behind his travail. He claimed it was the unnamed commissioner that misinformed the governor against him. But it is yet to be unravelled why an attack was launched on the task force committee members which had gone on fact finding.
Even the Chairman of Nigeria Hotels Owners Association Rivers State Chapter, Mr. Eugene Nwaizu, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt expressed surprise that the hotels that were not even registered with the body disobeyed the Executive Order.
According to him, “Hotels and Guest Houses were well informed about the Executive Order. The governor is not out to witch-hunt anybody but to ensure that coronavirus does not spread in the state.”
One order many arrests
Sunday Tribune lreant that contrary to belief that Wike used Order 006 to witch hunt political opponents, many residents of Rivers have been arrested for flouting. making the revelation, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr Paulinus Nsirim, said some arrests had been made for violating the executive order.
“As we speak, many offenders have been tried and convicted under the Executive Orders. This is not a lawless situation. Governor Wike is working hard to protect Rivers people within the ambit of the law,” Nsirim told journalists in Port Harcourt.
And in a seeming answer to Falana, who decried Wike’s action and described it as lawless, a former National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onueze Okocha SAN, popularly known as OCJ Okocha defended the governor’s Executive Orders stoutly, saying that in an emergency and in a bid to save the lives of the people, proactive measures must be deployed, saying that the demolition of the hotels was justified.
He said: “I believe strongly that the measures taken by the Rivers State government, particularly the governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike are well thought-out, well advised and I believe that they will to a large extent help us to avoid or at least minimise to the barest level the spread of this coronavirus that they now say causes the illness they called COVID 19.
“I commend the government, I commend the governor for these bold and very laudable steps.”
The former NBA president added, «And the Executive Orders put in place by the state governor are appropriate. Everybody accepts that they are calculated to secure our safety and to reduce to the barest minimum the spread of this coronavirus. So I don›t believe that anybody has quarrelled with any of these orders.”
“What I have heard are people flouting those orders and Nigerians sometimes do not understand some of these measures put in place, some of these regulations. These laws and orders are for their own good, and everybody should do each of their very best to comply with them.”
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