By Ernest Chinwo
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has vowed to quarantine and prosecute 22 staff of multinational oil giant, ExxonMobil, for illegally entering the state in violation of an executive order to curtail the spread of coronavirus.
The governor also announced that the second case of coronavirus in the state, a 62-year-old United Kingdom returnee, has been discharged after testing negative to the virus for a second time.
He said he would Saturday announce the lockdown of parts of Port Harcourt metropolis to ensure compliance with government’s restriction orders.
Wike spoke Friday in a live press conference at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
He said the ExxonMobil staff were arrested while entering Rivers State from Eket, Akwa Ibom State, through the East-west Road.
The governor said: “Yesterday, it was ExxonMobil that brought 22 people into Rivers State. Although, service commanders, including the Commissioner of Police, are pleading that we should allow them to return to Uyo. I know their predicament because they take orders from Abuja.
“But, this one, I will fight this one. I have told the Attorney-General to prepare; we are going to court against them. We will fight this fight legally. ExxonMobil cannot bring in 22 people illegally into Rivers State.
“ExxonMobil does not operate in Rivers State. They only make use of the Onne Port. We are not sure of the health status of the people they brought into the state because they can enter Eleme and Onne communities.
“We cannot leave corporate bodies who are not obeying the laws while akara and groundnut sellers are being charged to court in Lagos. This ExxonMobil matter will expose those in Abuja. I am ready for them. Rivers State is not a pariah state and we will not be.”
Wike insisted that there is a deliberate plot by some persons in Abuja to ensure that people in Rivers State are infected with coronavirus.
He said: “Some people want the escalation of the virus in Rivers State. People were paid to canvass a negative narrative on Carveton pilots.
“We are doing what we can within available resources to fight coronavirus. You can fly, but as you fly and land, don’t enter our territory.
“People in Abuja are not happy. They want Rivers State to be infected. They want to kill Rivers people and I will not allow it. I was elected to protect Rivers people. Rivers State is not a pariah state.”
He announced that the management of Caverton Helicopters formally apologised to the Rivers State government, leading to the granting of bail to its two pilots and 10 passengers that were arrested for illegally flying into Rivers State.
Wike said: “Caverton Helicopters has apologized to us. The managing director sent me a WhatsApp message from America and people who don’t know anything were quoting the laws. I was prepared for them.
“But some prominent Nigerians intervened and apologized on their behalf also. Caverton Helicopters management said they won’t do it again and should be given a second chance. I asked them to put it in writing and they did.”
The governor, who vows not to take any loans from banks to fight coronavirus, said the state government will not be friendly with any company that operates in Rivers State and does not support the state.
He said: “Any company that operates in Rivers State and does not support Rivers State and its people will hear from us. We will not take any loan from any bank to fight coronavirus. All rhe banks should rather support and assist the state. Afterall, their staff live in the state.”
The governor praised the management of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) for cooperating with the state authorities to fight the spread of coronavirus.
“I must commend the management of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) for obeying the established health protocol to check the spread of coronavirus. They have consistently liaised with the state government in the movement of their staff on essential duties. This is what is expected of a responsible corporate organization,” he said
He expressed gratitude to individuals and corporate organisations that have strengthened the state’s capacity to fight coronavirus.
He said: “Our pragmatic leadership style has therefore earned our state individual and corporate support that have strengthened our prevention strategies.”