By Ernest Chinwo
As the total lockdown of Port Harcourt metropolis, covering Port Harcourt city and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas of Rivers State commences Wednesday, the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, has explained that the lockdown is not targeted at making the people to suffer, but aimed at protecting them from the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking during a phone-in radio programme monitored in Port Harcourt Wednesday, Wike said all measures put in place by his administration have been to check the spread of the pandemic.
He said: “We have to lock down Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas in the interest of our people. While individuals feel it, the state government is also affected because it loses revenue. But lives must be protected.”
He said he had to take a decision to lock down the areas because of the fear that the number of those who will test positive will increase when the state starts mass testing.
“My first priority is to protect the lives of Rivers people. We haven’t locked down the towns before. This is not for anyone to suffer. I am appealing to our people to bear. If we don’t do anything now, our people will suffer.
“The population of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas is high. If it hits us, we will have serious problems. The action is to help our people,” he explained.
He urged Rivers people to continue to pray for the success of the state government at this crucial time.
“We need continuous prayers to succeed. We have handed this state to God. We can only do much, but God will save our people,” he said.
Wike also said the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that agriculture and health are key, adding that the state would work towards further growth in that direction.
“Agriculture is key. We must support our farmers and fishermen to produce more.
“Everyone should support the state government to tackle Covid-19. This is not a period of criticism.
“This is a period where all of us must come together, irrespective of political parties to stop the spread of the virus.
“I thank Rivers people for their support. It has been amazing. I am not moved by the unfounded criticism of a few. I am concerned about the protection of the vast majority of Rivers people, because I have their mandate,” the governor said.
He advised Rivers people to make sacrifices at this period, adding that while food can never be enough, the state government would sustain its delivery of palliatives.
He said more foodstuffs would be distributed to Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor and the other local government areas.
Responding to a question, Wike said the federal government is yet to disburse any fund to the Rivers State Government in relation to the fight against coronavirus.
He said the state rejected the 1,800 bags of rice supplied because they have since expired.
On when the lockdown will be lifted, Wike said the State Security Council would regularly meet to review the situation and take a decision.
He said that in order to check the sabotage of the lockdown, his administration has employed 300 operatives to assist in the enforcement of the lockdown.