In the wake of the announcement of a total lockdown as a measure to contain the dreaded Coronavirus in Rivers State, the Governor, Chief Barrister Nyesom Wike had signed an Executive Order for the arrest and prosecution of anybody caught flouting the Orders as regarding the restriction of movement in some parts of the State.
The Governor went further to say that hotels in the Capital City of Port Harcourt should shut down their operations, as much as send to the government a manifest of their already checked in guests. A contradicting order, you may say! But that is what it is.
Within 48 hours, the Governor personally took over the head ship of the Taskforce with little or nothing heard from the Commissioner for Health on the preparedness of the State to contain any possible spread of the virus. No known Isolation Centres built by the state Government in spite of boasting of housing multinationals who contribute heavily to the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR.
Gov Wike didn’t pretend about his threat to arrest and prosecute offenders of the Executive Orders. He had arrested over a hundred people and carded them to Court, the first day and still counting.
He personally stopped and searched vehicles on the road and cared less about those on essential duties who were exempted from the restrictions during the Presidential Broadcast. He also failed to keep his own broadcast where he also exempted those on essential duties.
Within a period of 5 days, the Governor had personally arrested over 200 persons and ordered them to be prosecuted and quarantined. Watching some of the videos of his supposed fight against COVID-19 turned fight against Rivers people, one could not help but shed tears as those who had permits from the State Command of the Nigerian Police were humiliated and their vehicles ceased for immediate auction.
A pregnant woman was warned not to dare go out for emergency. Another young man was hounded out of his SUV and forced to the Quarantine Centre. Policemen returning home after duty were not left to go home. They were marshaled to the Quarantine Center. Over 20 Dockworkers were arrested while going home after essential duties at the Port Harcourt Port, in spite of their contributions to revenue generation during the pandemic. Their Staff Bus was seized and kept for forceful sale.
The height of the Governor’s insensitivity to his people who were yet to understand the situation was the demolition of two hotels for alleged contravention of the Orders. This action by the Governor has been condemned by many people, stakeholders, Civil Society groups and the international media.
Surprisingly, after a hectic 5 day total lockdown, harassment, humiliation and punishment of Rivers people and residents, the Governor flunged the doors open for two days.
While there was of course an expected panic purchase in the major stores and satellite markets, with nobody keeping the social distancing, apart from the hanging of facemasks; the second day witnessed a massive turn out of PDP members at the Obi Wali Cultural Centre for their inauguration of the elected Officers of the party. They conspicuously failed to keep the social distancing order as more than 50 people gathered and even had a photoshoot of their successful inauguration.
And unknown to many, the further relaxation of the lockdown and freedom extended till Sunday night, May 17, 2020, it is to pave way for the newly inaugurated officers of the PDP to hold a Thanksgiving for a successful Congress.
By this multiple deceptive acts and for the unnecessary maltreatment of alleged flouters of the Executive Order, though merely administrative and in contrast to the Quarantine Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Wike has to apologize to Rivers people.
The shame of being in the news for the wrong reasons at a time the masses deserve empathy is another reason for a public apology.
And for those who were denied access to Medicare during the said period, the Governor should apologize.
Lastly but not the least, the Governor should release, acquit all the convictions and then return all the vehicles taken from their owners.
For the hotel owners, they must be adequately compensated.