Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) blast the Governor of Rivers State in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
There has been controversy over some actions taken by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state on his efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
The latest being the demolitions of two hotels for flouting lockdown directives. What is your take on that?
In terms of attitude, I think he is very hostile and aggressive and he is exhibiting it in the middle of this crisis. I remember the speech he made to the traditional rulers in the state; he treated them like rascally school boys that you can talk to anyhow without any regard. That is his attitude, so I’m not really surprised. Now, on this issue of Coronavirus and his response to it, he has totally ignored the authority of the federal government. He is behaving as if the federal government has no authority in the state and that he is completely in charge. I think the federal government has been very patient and accommodating in spite of the idiosyncrasy that has occurred.
On this matter, when the federal government actually makes a pronouncement, no state authority can contravene it. It is when the federal government doesn’t say anything or give any directive that the state is free to give its directive. You all can see the way Lagos state responded. The federal government gave the directive on lockdown and there was no resistance because the state government knows that the federal government has overriding authority both under the Quarantine Act of 1926.
States can operate, provided they don’t clash with the federal government. When the federal government gives a directive along that issue, states can no longer do that because it is a constitutional matter. So, the way Wike has been carrying on is as if there is a republic of Rivers state of which he is the President. He has done it so far and gotten away with it because the federal government is very accommodating. We have a President who is very gentle, who doesn’t want to make trouble with anybody but wants things to go on peacefully in the country.
However, Wike wakes up and keeps raising all forms of hostility against the federal government endlessly and yet; the federal government keeps on accommodating him. If the federal government decides to respond or take any action, it will be a one-sided affair and the state will have nothing to say or do. You cannot compare the two in terms of law and in terms of force. They are not comparable.
Anything the federal government wants to do in this particular issue, it will do it and nothing will happen.
In any case, aside the Quarantine Act, even the Constitution has a provision that some aspects of human rights can be suspended to enable the federal government make law and take actions when there is a major health crisis. Wike should know that the final authority belongs to the federal government.
Where the federal government gives any directive in that situation, the state governments just have to comply. Wike should try and calm down a little bit and not behave as if he is the head of a republic of Rivers state because there is no such thing.