Nyesom Wike’s Executive Recklessness

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Ring True with Yemi Adebowale, Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; Tel: 07013940521 (text only)

Ring true

Phone number 08054699539

Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

The level of human rights abuse being perpetrated by Governor Nyesom Wike in Rivers State under the guise of enforcing COVID-19 lockdown is frightening. The good people of Rivers State must rise and stop this modern day Benito Mussolini, who is bent on destroying our democracy and Rule of Law. Wike’s demolition of two hotels in the state over alleged violation of his lockdown order was most despicable. The fascist governor illegally mobilised armed security agents with bulldozers to Edemete and Prodest hotels in Elele and Onne, respectively, and personally supervised the destruction. It was a blatant violation of the laws of this country.

Wike’s defence that the hotels were encouraging the spread of Coronavirus and that one of the owners attacked members of the state’s COVID-19 Task force is balderdash. We must not allow this governor to continue to hide under a crazy Executive Order to perpetrate lawlessness. Let’s get it straight. An Executive Order is simply a managerial tool with procedures. It is not a law and can never be a law. The Nigerian Constitution is superior to Wike’s ludicrous order, which is apparently in conflict with our Constitution.

If this governor believes the promoters of Edemete and Prodest hotels had broken any law, they ought to have been arrested, charged to court and tried in line with the laws of our land. It is only a court of law that can impose any form of punishment.

This is the position of the law. It is the law of this country. So, which court of law gave this lawless governor the approval to demolish these hotels? The Nigerian Constitution does not allow any government, no matter how big, to be the architect of a law, appellant, witness, prosecutor, the Judge and enforcer of the law at the same time. That was exactly what “Governor Rivers” did last Sunday with the demolition of the two hotels. Wike is a lawyer and should be mortified by his action. For me, this man is a disgrace to the legal profession. I have been waiting for him to tell us the section of the Nigerian Constitution that allows him to take the laws into his hands and dish out penalties to people without recourse to the Constitution. Even the President of this country can’t do this. “Governor Rivers” has been going around defending himself with cock and bull stories.

Suddenly, “Governor Rivers” says he has approved the construction of a primary school at the location of the demolished Prodest Hotel in Eleme. On the one hand, a building that could have been converted to a school (if legally confiscated) is demolished. On the other hand, scarce public fund will now be used to build a school. Where is the sense in all these? Wike is also telling us that a member of his Task Force on COVID-19, who was allegedly attacked at Prodest Hotel before it was demolished, died on Tuesday. However, he is unable to disclose the identity of the dead officer. Can you imagine that? I think it’s just a ruse to whip up sentiment after the backlash of the demolition.

Wike’s lockdown rules are evidently extremely draconian and senseless. He mindlessly orders markets and places selling food to totally shut down, thus creating crisis. There are better ways of doing this, without hurting the people he claims to be protecting. Essential workers like doctors, nurses, pharmacists, electricity and oil personnel, are harassed daily in Rivers State. In many cases, they are arrested for breaching the absurd lockdown. On Tuesday, I watched a video of Wike supervising the enforcement of the lockdown and saw him directing security agents to take people violating his order to COVID-19 isolation centre. Haba! How can this man arrest people and send them to isolation centre? So, as a punishment, he wants them infected with Coronavirus? In another scene, Wike ran into a pregnant woman who was heading to the hospital and started harassing her. He eventually allowed her to go with a vow that next time, he would deal with her. So, pregnant women in need of medical attention should not step out of their homes because of Wike’s order? This governor is evidently high on something. Only God knows what it is.

When he took on ExxonMobil staff on April 17, you will probably think Heavens will fall. In a manner better described as warped, Wike arrested and quarantined 22 staff of this firm, with a promise to prosecute them for violating his Executive Order to curtail the spread of the virus. The workers were on their way to an offshore oil platform and dared to pass through Wike’s kingdom. They had approval from necessary authorities to move around but Wike still created unnecessary scene. Common sense eventually prevailed and the governor was forced to eat humble pie by releasing the oil workers he abducted. Before this ExxonMobil issue, Wike had viciously arrested 10 oil workers brought to Port Harcourt by Caverton Helicopter in the guise of sustaining the war against COVID-19. He also arrested and detained the two pilots that flew the helicopter to Port Harcourt. Just imagine Wike thinking that he has the power to close Nigeria’s air space as part of the state’s measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. This is what fascism does to a man.

Senior lawyer, Femi Falana was apt when he described Wike’s demolition of the two hotels as primitive. The human rights activist added: “Wike should not be allowed to get away with the brute force and the violation of the nation’s Constitution. The Constitution supersedes the governor’s order. Any offender, regardless of the crime he committed, should be arrested, charged to court and tried in line with the laws of the land. It is unfortunate that these events are happening in Port Harcourt where the governor of the state is a senior lawyer and not just a lawyer. I’m even informed that he’s a member of the Body of Benchers. That is an embarrassment; a colossal embarrassment to the Nigerian Bar Association.
“Under our law, an emergency situation under the Quarantine Act does not permit the demolition of a house of an alleged offender. Whoever has breached the law will have to be tried and convicted by a court of law before a sentence can be pronounced. We hope the governor will be properly advised to reverse his decisions, publicly apologise and restore the properties of those that have been destroyed. Everyone will have to go through a judicial process. That is what the Rule of Law is all about. The guidelines and regulations in the Executive Order are subject to the Constitution. So, if there is a conflict in the guidelines, the directives of the governor and the Constitution, his directives will bow to the Constitution.”

It is heartwarming that police authorities have withdrawn their men attached to Wike’s notorious COVID-19 Task Force. All other security agencies must do same. All security agents attached to his office must also be firmly warned not to obey his unlawful orders.

Let me quickly refresh Wike’s memory about how the Italian fascist, Benito Mussolini, died on 28 April 1945, during the final days of World War II in Europe. Mussolini was summarily executed by an Italian partisan in the small village of Giulino di Mezzegra in northern Italy. The man who shot him was Walter Audisio, a communist partisan, who used the nom de guerre of “Colonel Valerio.” It was followed by wild celebration across Italy by nationals he consistently disgraced. My beloved Wike should learn from this and amend his ways. His persistent humiliation of the people of Rivers State must stop.

Travails of Kufre Carter in Akwa Ibom

For those who have not been following the story, Kufre Carter is a 27-year-old journalist with XL 106.9 FM, a private radio station in Akwa Ibom State. He was arrested on April 27 by officers of the Department of State Security in Uyo on allegations that he made defamatory statements against the state’s Commissioner for Health, Dominic Ukpong. Carter was arraigned for alleged defamation at a magistrate court in Uyo. After he pleaded not guilty to the charges, the court presided over by Winifred Umohandi, granted him bail with very tough conditions. The toughest was that Carter should provide a surety who is either a Permanent Secretary with the Akwa Ibom State Government or a civil servant on grade level 17. Which civil servant will step forward to bail Carter in a case instituted by the state’s government against him? Till date, this young man is yet to meet his bail conditions. He will probably never do this if the conditions are not revised.

Akwa Ibom has clearly joined the list of states where the governors are opposed to free speech, an essential part of any democracy. They clamp down heavily on anyone that dares to criticize the governor and his government. The Akwa Ibom health commissioner, of course, with the support of Governor Udom Emmanuel, is out to punish Carter for punching holes in the state’s COVID-19 management style. So, he was arraigned for making “defamatory comments” against the Akwa Ibom State’s Commissioner for Health. Pressure was also mounted on the radio station to disown Carter.

The DSS is not allowing anybody access to Carter. His mum was at the DSS office to see him but was denied access to the young man. Last Tuesday, I watched the video of Carter’s mother pleading with the DSS to allow her see her son in their custody. In the video, which was shared by the former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, the troubled mother was seen lamenting: “I am here in DSS department. I am the mother to Kufre Carter. My son did not commit any crime. Even the family of an armed robber is permitted to see him in the cell and see how he is doing.

My son did not commit any crime. To my surprise, the governor of Akwa Ibom State authorised the DSS not to allow me to see my son. I am here by the gate of DSS. They did not allow me and my children to see my son. I don’t have money. He is the one who gives me small money to eat because I retired since 2016. My Governor refused to give me my gratuity. I am being fed by my son. The state government wants me to die. I am now on drugs. If I die, God will require my blood from you. You did not allow me to see my son. What sin did my son commit? Did he kill somebody? Please let me see my child. Please for goodness sake let me see my son.”

The Akwa Ibom State government must not be allowed to get away with this oppression. Human rights activist must rise and fight for Carter. We all have to pile up pressure to secure freedom for this young man. For governor Udom Emmanuel, I urge him to toe the path of honour by dropping all charges against Carter.