- Orders hotels, guest houses and beer parlours closed
By Ernest Chinwo
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has announced a 24-hour lockdown on Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor Local Government Area as part of the state government’s measures to check the spread of coronavirus.
In a broadcast Monday, Wike said: “Consequently, we have decided on the extreme measure of placing the entire Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas under a 24-hour total lockdown from Thursday 7th May 2020 until further notice.”
He said with the declaration, all residents of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas must stay at home.
He said: “On no account should there be any vehicular movements or gathering of more than two persons in these local government areas, except those on essential services with appropriate authorisation.
“All shops, trading or business activities, including currency exchange, in these local government areas must also remain closed until further notice.
“All landlords are advised to ensure that no shop or trading activity is opened or carried out in or around their premises or risk the confiscation of their property by the government.
“Any person, group or institution that violates the lockdown and curfew in these local government areas will be made to face the full wrath of the law.”
The governor pointed out that the latest of the positive cases of the virus in the state was the 14th case that was flown in to Port Harcourt by Bristow Helicopters from an offshore oilfield facility in Akwa Ibom State on April 29.
He said the positive cases have shown and confirmed the state’s fears that unmonitored entry of oil and gas workers from Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere remains a potential source for the importation and spread of Covid-19 in the state.
Given the threat posed to the state by oil and gas company workers, he said the state has reviewed all entry waivers and permits earlier granted to oil and gas companies.
He said: “All requests for waivers and entry permits from oil and gas companies would be considered on a case by case basis; all inward-bound vehicles and flights into Rivers State from oil and gas companies with workers for crew change or other essential operations must first submit details of their manifests to the state’s taskforce on Covid-19 for proper vetting of their virus status before they can be allowed to enter the state; and all operators of chartered flights into Rivers State for oil and gas operations, especially Bristow and Caverton Helicopters, should please comply with this directive and refrain from jeopardizing the lives of our people for the sake of making profits.”
Wike sternly warned people to stop politicizing the issue of coronavirus in the state with “rascally, irresponsible and ill-motivated utterances”.
According to him, “This government is focused and therefore will not allow itself to be distracted on its battle against Covid-19. However, we will neither tolerate nor hesitate to deal with anyone who dares to fabricate lies to rubbish the hard work and sacrifice we are making to save the lives in our state just to advance parochial partisan interests.”
He restated that the state was compelled to take the decisions to uphold the sanctity of human life as “we cannot abdicate this compelling responsibility and abandon our people to chances in the midst of this much dreaded and ravaging pandemic”.
He said: “We have also observed with disappointment the persistent disobedience to the state government’s lawful orders and or directives on Covid-19 by a number of communities and residents, especially in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas despite repeated warning.
“On the whole, we can all see that Covid-19 cases confirmed across the country are growing in numbers, meaning that the situation in our state, although still relatively low, can change for the worse if we relax our measures or become complacent.
“In view of the foregoing, government has resolved to impose additional measures by the Executive Order I have just signed, which are targeted at reinforcing our efforts towards stopping the spread of the virus in the state, as follows:
“All residents must wear masks before stepping out of their homes to the public space; the operations of all private motor parks, taxi ranks and loading bays throughout the state is hereby prohibited; no commercial taxi driver should carry more than three passengers in his vehicles per trip; no commercial bus driver should carry more than 40 per cent of full capacity of his vehicle.
“All tricycles (Keke NAPEP) must limit their passengers to two persons only; no private vehicle should carry more than three persons in the car; all drivers, persons or passengers in commercial and private vehicles, including tricycles, must wear masks and observe the use of sanitizers; all hotels, guest houses and beer parlours must remain closed.”
Wike also said a task force has been set up to “arrest and prosecute any person without wearing masks in public places or inside vehicles; impound and auction any vehicle with persons or passengers without wearing masks; arrest and prosecute any driver loading or off-loading passengers at any private motor-park, taxi rank or loading bay; impound and auction any vehicle loading or off-loading passengers at any private park, taxi rank or loading bay; and confiscate and auction any hotel and guest houses operating in defiance of the ban”.
He announced that government would give N100,000.00 to any whistle blower who gives out relevant information leading to the arrest and prosecution of any person, hotelier or motorist that violates the directives, adding that all hoteliers must provide the State Task Force on COVID-19 with the manifest of those already lodged in their hotels before the coming into effect of this directive.