By Ernest Chinwo
Reprieve has come the way of residents of Port Harcourt metropolis as the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has announced the temporary lifting of the total lockdown on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas for two days only, with effect from Tuesday (today).
The governor also explained that the state demolished the hotel in Eleme because in addition to violating extant laws of the state, the proprietor of the hotel also unleashed thugs and inflicted severe injuries on members of the state task force who went to enforce the directives of the government.
In a state broadcast Sunday night, Wike said the total lockdown of the two local government areas that make up Port Harcourt metropolis would be lifted on Tuesday and Wednesday but would be reinstated Thursday.
He said: “We have given due consideration to the propositions on the way forward by well-meaning citizens of the state, and after a cautious review of the situation, decided to implement a partial relaxation of the lockdown measures to enable residents to have some fresh air and replenish their foodstuffs and medicines.
“To this end, I hereby announce the temporary lifting of the total lockdown on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Governments Areas for two days only, with effect from Tuesday 12th May, 2020.
“All shops, supermarkets, and malls can open to the public for Tuesday and Wednesday, 12 and 13 May, 2020. Similarly, all hospitals and banks can also open and provide full services to the public.
“While oil and gas companies are required to submit the list of their staff on essential duties to government, note that there is no ban on the lifting of petroleum products from depots and other receptacles.
“The total lockdown on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas will be reinstated on Thursday, 14th May, 2020 and remain until further notice.”
Wike said all other established restrictions under the Executive Orders on social distancing are still in force.
These, he stated, included the compulsory wearing of masks or scarfs in vehicles and public places; closure of all land, sea and air borders and entry routes into the state; and closure of all open markets, including slaughters, hotels, guest houses, cinemas, bars and restaurants.
He also restated the ban on gathering, including public burials, weddings, and religious gathering of more than 50 persons.
The governor said every measure the state government has imposed was dictated by an assessment of the state’s situation, the trend of transmission and the conviction that it was the right thing to do in the circumstance.
“As a government, we are doing our utmost best, in the face of daunting challenges, to prevent Covid-19 from taking hold in Rivers State; to stop any possible community transmission of this disease before it is too late,” he said, adding that the alternative would spell a greater disaster for the state.
He said the state’s actions are not arbitrary measures but fully prescribed and backed by the ordinary laws of the state, especially Executive Orders numbers 1 to 6 which apply equally to all persons throughout the state.
“As a government, we are obliged to enforce our laws, and in the present circumstance, we have done so without fear or favour.
“We equally made it loud and clear that in the fight against Covid-19, there would be no sacred cows; no double standards, and no sentiments of any kind, whether political, ethnic, religious, status, emotional or otherwise.
“In the last few days, we have pursued with vigour and secured several convictions against those who intentionally violated our Covid-19 containment laws in the same way other states are doing.
“The forfeited trucks to be auctioned by the Deputy Sherriff were not confiscated arbitrarily by the state government, but by the orders of our courts,” the governor said.
Wike stated that the demolition of the two hotels in Eleme was done in line with extant laws.
According to him, “Similarly, we acted against the hotelier because, apart from using the facility to jeopardize the lives of our citizens in violation of the extant law, the owner audaciously unleashed thugs led by the Eleme Local Government Youth Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party and inflicted severe injuries on our taskforce members who went to enforce the law against the continued operation of the hotel.
“As we speak, nobody knows the fate of the lives of most of the victims of that brazen and deadly attack given the severity of the head injuries they sustained.
“And so, we’ve done no wrong as all our actions were taken in good faith and justified by, under and within the purview of the Executive Orders, which have neither been challenged nor set aside by any competent court of law.”
The governor said he remains focused on protecting Rivers people.
He said: “Therefore, while we welcome genuine criticisms directed towards strengthening our intervention measures; it is no use joining issues with uninformed critics and social media legal practitioners who, blinded and prodded by sheer politics, bias and hatred, have opted to demonize and paint our lawful and responsible actions in bad light.”