By Simeon Nwakaudu
One of the most important achievements of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike during the first year of his second term has been the provision of purposeful leadership in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.
As a lawyer and life bencher, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike was the first to lead the way on the right Legislation for the containment of the virus.
On March 19, 2020, Governor Wike signed the quarantine executive order and the regulations to restrict movement and close the borders.
The Executive Order RVSG-01 2020 Pursuant to Sections 2, 3, 4 and 8 of Quarantine Act, CAP 02 , Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and Regulations 11 of the Quarantine (Coronavirus (COVID-19) and other infectious diseases regulations .
The order’s citation is Quarantine (Corona virus (COVID- 19) and other Infectious Diseases) Regulations, 2020.
This order was replicated by the Federal Government and several other states of the Federation. This order defined the fight against the spread of coronavirus.
Through proactive actions, Governor Wike protected majority of Rivers people during the pandemic.
Governor Wike was on the frontline to protect the people of Rivers State. He led the State Task Force on Enforcement of the Ban on Public and Religious Gatherings . The Governor personally led the enforcement operations of the team.
Beyond enforcing the social distancing rules across the State, Governor Wike established the first food bank in the country. The State Food Bank is under the management of Rivers State COVID-19 Palliatives Committee.
The Rivers State Palliatives Committee, the most active relief materials team in the country, has reached out to communities, wards and Local Government Areas across the state. The Palliatives Committee terms of reference revolved supporting the people with foodstuffs, so they can sit-at-home and check the spread of coronavirus.
As a result of Governor Wike’s leading role in the distribution of palliatives, all the 23 Local Government Areas, state and federal lawmakers have opened up palliatives distribution networks. With different food distribution platforms, many Rivers people have been reached one way or another.
Closely linked to the Rivers State COVID-19 Palliatives Committee is another committee established by Governor Wike to keep the Rivers economy afloat and also empower farmers and fishermen.
Governor Wike set aside N2BILLION for the purchase of products from farmers and fishermen. These foodstuffs will then be distributed to the less privileged.
Governor Wike said that the committee has been empowered to purchase all agricultural products produced in the state for distribution to the less privileged.
He said: “We are going a step further to ensure that no one complains of hunger in our State during this trying period. The State Government has therefore set aside the sum of N2billion to buy off all agricultural products produced in the State from farmers and fishermen.
“Our goal is to ensure that no agricultural product like yam, garri, plantain, palm oil and fish leaves our State during this period.
“While the farmers and fishermen will make their profits, the less privileged will have enough food supply for their families.”
He added: “To ensure that the appropriate logistics for effective implementation of this policy is carried out to the letter, government will set up a 33-man Committee.”
For the identification and treatment of coronavirus cases, Governor Wike set up rapid response teams at the Rivers State Ministry of Health. These teams coordinated by highly trained health professionals are involved in contact tracing and treatment. They run the toll-free lines that provide quality medical care to Rivers people.
The State Government on its own has two holding centres at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital and the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, with an Isolation/Treatment Centre at Eleme LGA. This is where the index case and the second case were managed.
Working with the private sector, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike facilitated the setting up of a major Isolation/Treatment Centre at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt.
But APC chieftain thinks otherwise
Former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New People’s Democratic Party and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, has described the purported palliative measures put in place by the Rivers State government to cushion the effect of the COVID -19 lockdown as a serious embarrassment to the sensibilities of the good people of Rivers State.
In a statement made available to media houses in Port Harcourt, Eze maintained that Rivers people deserve more than 3 cups of rice, few cups of garri and a sachet of noodle as palliative for each family after budgeting a whopping sum of Two Billion Naira (N2B) in this regard.
According to the party Chief, “the State Government food palliative intervention through its Committee headed by His Excellency, Ambassador Desmond Akawo the newly elected PDP State Chairman though targeted mainly to PDP members, are 3 cups of rice; 5 cups of garri; one satchet of noodles(indomie) for a family”.
“I would suggest that rather than humiliate and embarrass PDP members and citizens in such brazen manner and turn them to mere beggars, it would have been best the government and its agents kept their money and allowed markets to open for free commerce. Families can fend for themselves above such humiliating and ridiculous degree to which the state has subjected them”. Eze stressed.
Chief Eze blasts the State Government for excluding the APC faithful from the palliative intervention and further stated that the action of the State government has further exposed the ineptitude and recklessness of the PDP administration in attending and addressing issues of critical importance like public welfare etc.
On the closure of operation of Caverton Helicopters in Rivers State, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze frowned at the declaration of Gov. Wike, stressing that such is ultra vires the powers of any state government as aviation and incidental matters are exclusive preserve of the Federal Government at the exclusion of any state including Rivers State.
Gov. Wike had on last Wednesday, declared Caverton Helicopters a personal non grata thus “For endangering the lives of Rivers people by its suspicious operations, the Rivers State Government has declared Caverton Helicopters, Persona Non Grata in the state”.
In a State Broadcast on Wednesday, Gov. Wike also directed Local Government Council Chairmen to close the Offices of Caverton Helicopters across the state.
The governor went further to say that by its actions Caverton Helicopters have clearly shown that Rivers lives do not matter to it. It is an enemy of Rivers people and is hereby declared persona non grata in Rivers State.
Frowning at the development Chief Eze said the governor would have opted for a more pragmatic approach to handling the issue rather than making inciting pronouncements to heat up the polity.
He said subjecting the pilots and air passengers to screening to determine their COVID-19 status would have been enough measure rather than charging them to court for carrying out lawful orders of the Federal Government to save the nation’s economy.
He counselled the governor to be a bit more civil by considering granting the detainees freedom to avoid throwing the economy of the state into further distress.
Recall that the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) had threatened to shut down all air operations to and fro Port Harcourt if the state government fails to release the detained pilots and in solidarity, the United Labour Congress has issued similar warning to shut down operations of service providers under its overage should government continue to keep Caverton Helicopters’ Pilots under custody.
Chief Eze appealed to Gov. Wike to reconsider his ill decisions and actions and immediately release the pilots to save the state and her people from perpetual lockdown, stressing that the people and the state economy will suffer more should AON and ULC put their threats into effect.
Eze noted with sadness over the swiftness of the arrest and speedy throwing into detention of the two Caverton Pilots by the Judiciary based on the Governor’s influence, Nigerians can now see the biased nature of the Rivers judiciary of doing whatever the Governor wants them to do. This was one of the many reasons why APC couldn’t produce even a councilor in Rivers State during the last general elections. The Presidency and indeed Nigerians should now see what APC in Rivers State is suffering in the hands of Governor Wike in collaborating with well known internal enemies of APC to keep the APC in Rivers State in perpetual comatose state.
Eze quoted another chieftain of the APC, Chibuike Ikenga, as saying that under Gov. Wike, every policy, decision, order, proclamation etc are not well thought out for the good of the masses or for the overall wellbeing of the state/citizens but well crafted or rehearsed for egocentric enhancements.
Chief Ikenga further stated that from the outset, “his programs are geared towards self aggrandizement and political profiteering. The personalization of governance in the state points to the same direction of a totalitarian and despotic regime under democracy.
Eze commended the Churches in Rivers State for rejecting the temporary relaxation of the lockdown order for religious activities by Governor Wike which forced the Governor to cancel his earlier ill advised idea in this regard that would have endangered the lives of Rivers State people.
Eze pleads with the Governor to drop the Emperor toga and relate as friends with members of his State Executive so that they can build up the confidence to advise him wisely on how to handle some critical and sensitive issues pertaining to governance and should also consult widely each time critical decisions, especially those touching on law and citizens’ welfare are to be taken to save him from policy somersaults associated with his administration.