Business community wants Gov Wike to ease emulate Lagos harsh measures on fight against COVID-19

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* Call for food, essential goods corridor

* RivCSO wants landlords not pressurize tenants till further notice

By Codratus Godson

Top business leaders have appealed to the Rivers State government to create palliatives and create ways of reducing hardship in the state in the fight against the Coronavirus.

Most CEOs who spoke unanimously said Lagos State was getting it right and urged the second biggest economy in Nigeria to take another look at the measures.

This is as pressure begins to mount on Gov Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to introduce palliatives and create food and essential commodities (essenco) corridor to avert rebellion.

Detail

The social media space and local radio stations are awash with calls for such measures to reduce the seeming harsh orders of shutting down all entry points and markets in the state.

Television footages have shown long queues at the boundaries with travellers sleeping on the road.

Most of the motorists told newsmen they were going to other states such as Lagos and Calabar. The queue at the Imo River boundary to Abia State was full of lorries, trucks, and trailers.

Top corporate entities have pleaded for exemptions and this was turned down.

A strong female voice, the former member of the House of Assembly, Victoria Nyesche, said enough notice was not given and decried what she called negative impact on residents. She lamented absence of palliatives and urged the governor to emulate Delta, Akwa Ibom, and Lagos states.

Nyeche, who donated food, clothing, and financial assistance to 250 constituents particularly widows and orphans, said: “Hunger kills more than virus, government and corporate organisations should donate food, money, etc, to residents”.

Adding a collective voice, the Rivers State Civil Society Organisations (RivCSOs) led by Enefaa Georgewill, who commended the state government for the drastic measures to curtail spread of COVID-19, however, called for review of the stringent ones such as boundary closure and markets being shut down.

Georgewill in a statement in Port Harcourt feared the situation may create more problems like hunger virus, food robbery, and health challenges like panic, high blood pressure and outright civil disobedience.

RivCSO thus called on the state government to review some of its earlier positions by suggesting the payment of salaries to civil servants to stock food, and ask private employers to do so. “Government should relax the part pf its decision to shut all markets including food items.’

RivCSO urged the government to consider food centres plus food and medicine corridor and to liaise with the private sector to form a coalition of relief and support to help the masses. “Government should liaise with service providers like PHED, cable network providers and communication network providers to provide free or cheaper services within this period as part of their corporate social responsibility(CSR) to encourage citizens to stay at home.

“The government should also prevail on all landlord in the state not to disturb or pressurise any tenant for rent at this time, as this will distort and not enable the sit at home directives of government and may increase the risk and possibility of more spread of the virus in the state.”

The CSOs want the governor to explain on the state of preparedness should the situation get higher than the one person so far and thus mention the location of isolation and treatment centres if any.

NO GOING BACK, MORE MAY BE COMING ON MONDAY – WIKE

Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has expressed satisfaction with the level of compliance in respect of the State Government’s directive  on the  closure of markets,  saying that the State Government is committed to checking the spread of coronavirus in the state.

Speaking on Saturday after leading the  State Task Force on Enforcement of the ban on Public and Religious Gatherings to monitor compliance with the directive of the State Government,  Governor Wike urged Rivers people to make sacrifices to ensure that the virus is contained.

He said: “We are satisfied with the level of compliance,  even though there are those who thought that the closure of markets will not take effect from the first day.

“We will also go out tomorrow.  After tomorrow,  we will know if we will apply more stringent measures on Monday.

“What we are doing is to protect the lives of our people. Some people may talk about the inconvenience,  but you must be alive to talk about food.

“This is the time everyone must make sacrifices . This disease affects the entire population.  Whatever measures we bring out is to curtail the spread of this deadly virus.

“Today, we have gone round and we are happy with what we have seen. We will review tomorrow whether the Churches are complying with what we agreed on.”

Governor Wike said that his administration is taking very tough measures because Port Harcourt is a hub that attracts people from across the globe.

He said: “Port Harcourt is a hub where you have the oil companies and the rest of them.  We have two seaports.  It is a place where people like to come and do business.

“We think that the measures that we have put in place have checkmated the spread of the virus.

“While we pray to God for his intervention,  we will continue to do our best to protect our people. ”

The Rivers State Governor stated that the State Government will consider palliatives in the next phase of intervention,  noting that the focus for now is to check the spread.

“When you talk of palliative,  you are aware that the Federal Government gave Lagos State N10BILLION as support. And so many people in Lagos have also made various donations.

“But in this state, we have not received a dime from any person. For the time being, people should make the sacrifice.

“The issue of palliative will be in the second phase,” he said.

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