By Gladys Nweke
(With additional reports from reporters)
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has berated the Federal Government for politicizing the fight against the spread of coronavirus, describing the selective support to states as unfortunate.
The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari from Rivers State, Eleme-born Yuri Ngelali, said it is rather Gov Wike that is politicizing the fight. He pointed to the appointment of the incoming ruling party chairman as coordinator of the COVID-19 relief committee to share relief materials to the entire state. He also said the FG was the one building the 250-bed treatment centre in PH even without the governor asking for it.
Sources to the governor have however insisted it’s the state that is building it, saying if it was not so, the governor would not have gone to inspect the project.
In a broadcast on Sunday, however, Gov Wike condemned the exclusion of Rivers State from the Federal Government grants in the fight against coronavirus. He noted that despite the exclusion of the state, Federal Government has continued to endanger the State by flying expatriates into Rivers State.
He said, “It is quite unfortunate that the containment of coronavirus has been politicized by the Federal Government. While Lagos State received a grant of N10billion as a commercial hub, Rivers State as the nation’s oil and gas hub that produces a greater percentage of the nation’s wealth has not received any support from the Federal Government.
“One wonders why Federal Government should single out a state out of 36 States to give support. Does it mean that support will come when a State has a record of over 50 infected persons before it gets support. No state should be seen as more important than any other state. This is a Federal Republic. No state is superior to others.
“Rivers State is entitled to support from the Federal Government. Every day, we are inundated with letters from the Federal Government to allow oil companies to fly in expatriates to drill Oil. Then we ask, what is the status of those coming from Lagos? Nobody has told us their status as regards coronavirus.
“If they come to come Rivers without us knowing their status, what will be implication assuming they have the virus.”
Governor Wike announced that all markets in the state shall operate between 7am and 12noon on April 7 and April 8, 2020 to allow residents shop for Easter and also replenish their stock of foodstuffs.
He declared that Oil Mill Market, Mbiama Market and Slaughter Market will remain closed till further notice.
He said: “All markets in the state except Oil Mill Market, Mbiama Market and Slaughter Market at Trans-Amadi shall be open on Tuesday April 7 and Wednesday, April 8, 2020 from 7am to 12noon. After those two days, the markets will remain closed. This is to enable residents shop for Easter and also replenish their stock of foodstuffs.
“Oil Mill Market, Mbiama Market and Slaughter Market at Trans Amadi shall remain closed till further notice.
The Governor announced the dissolution of the board of RTC for the notorious operation of illegal franchise scheme.
The Board of the Rivers State Transport Company (RTC) has been dissolved with immediate effect. All those operating a franchise scheme in the name of the company are advised to desist forthwith. Anyone who violates this directive, will be arrested and prosecuted. Government took this measure because the franchise scheme of RTC has become notorious for illegal activities that compromise the interest of the state, he said.
Governor Wike directed security agencies to fish out and prosecute persons who slaughter animals in the Bush for public consumption.
He said, Our people must understand that lives are more important than profit.
We are constrained to note again that despite our directive, commercial vehicle operators have refused to maintain social distancing. Their action portends grave danger because they place the entire society at risk of the virus.
The Governor announced the setting up of a committee to work out modalities for implementation of the State Government’s Palliative Programme.
In line with our decision to provide palliatives to cushion the hardship being faced by our people, Government has decided to set up a committee to work out modalities for the smooth implementation of this directive. This committee reflects all interest groups.
The members are: Ambassador Desmond Akawor (Chairman), Mrs Inime Aguma , Dr Bariere Thomas, Chief David Briggs, Mrs Florence Amiesimaka, Mrs Stella Ichenwo, Mrs Anthonia Kpakol, Hon. Edison Ehie, Mr Samuel Nwanosike, Hon Hope Ikiriko, Mr Latteh Loolo, ACP Innocent Umerie (Representative of Nigeria Police Force), Hassan Yahaya (DSS), Lt Col Bello (Nigerian Army), AC Mathew Pama (Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps), Wing Commander Comfort Visah (Nigerian Air Force) , Lt Commander CJ Udeh (Nigerian Navy) Venerable Richard Opara, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Diepriye, Monsignor Pius Kii, Archbishop Felix Ezebunwo, Mrs Vivian Braide , Prince Ohia and Paulinus Nsirim (Secretary).
This committee will be inaugurated tomorrow, Monday April 6, 2020 at the Government House, Port Harcourt by 12noon. Attendance of the inauguration ceremony will be strictly for members of the committee, he said.
Governor Wike gave an update on the state’s index case, saying that she will be discharged soon.
He said, We are grateful to God that the index case of the virus is now negative. As soon as we receive the confirmation result, she will be discharged from the treatment centre. We also thank our frontline health professionals who have displayed a deep sense of professionalism and patriotism during this trying period.
The State Government is also grateful to all Rivers people and private individuals who have contributed to support us in this fight. At the appropriate time, Government will publish the names of these individuals.
May I urge our religious leaders to continue to intercede on behalf of the state as we fight to contain this virus.
Once again, let me restate that with your continued support, Rivers State will remain safe.
Governor Wike emphasised that all borders of the State remains closed.