By Godwin Anene
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State on Sunday marched his words with action by pulling down two hotel buildings for allegedly violating the State Government’s Executive Orders aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
The governor had last week threatened to demolish any hotel in the state operating against the restriction order imposed on their activities in the state.
But following alleged breach of the order, Wike, who led members of the state’s COVID-19 taskforce to enforce the order, brought down two hotel building at Onne in Eleme Local Government Area of the state to serve as deterrent to violators.
The two hotels – Prudent Hotel, Alode, and Etemeteh Hotel – where demolished under the supervision of the state governor. .
Wike, addressing newsmen during the exercise, said the state government had no choice but to bring down the property.
He said, “Government has no alternative but to apply the Executive Order I signed before the lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt. I told all Traditional Rulers and Council Chairmen to ensure no hotel operates in the state.
“We are not saying it will be forever. This is to reduce the cases and check the spread. Whether you are PDP or not, all we are saying is nobody is above the law. If we can do this to a PDP person, you know we are not discriminatory.
“We said if any hotel operates, Government will bring it down. We are doing what we told people we were going to do. Unfortunately, the PDP Youth Leader in Eleme joined others to flout the Executive Order. Look at the rate of infections, most of these people are found in hotels.
“The infected man that died was at Mingi Hotel in Rumumasi. Due to that contact, we have had other seven cases. People should help support Government for Rivers people to be safe. Security Council will meet to review strategies and achievements or setbacks, moving forward. All we are doing is to protect our people.”
He further stated, “People talk about hunger, but only the living can discuss hunger. We will continue to work to protect our people. What we are doing is to tell the people that the State Government is serious to ensure we defeat coronavirus”
However, the action of the Rivers governor had attracted condemnation from civil society groups, describing the demolition and action of Wike of lacking fair hearing and justice to the victims.
Reacting to the development, Coordinator, Citizens Voice Initiative, Sebastian Kpalab, said, “This is insane and draconian. This does not promote containment of the Coronavirus. It has taken away family and individual livelihoods, increased shrinking Rivers economy. It smacks fatal remedy for a sick situation.”
Dumnamene Fyneface, another rights activists said, “At best, the Governor would have sealed the hotels, use them as isolation centres or office for Local Government Task Force on COVID-19 in Eleme or impose fines on them for whatever perceived default.
“The Governor and government of Rivers should the harsh measures against citizens in the fight against COVID-19 and rebuilt the demolished hotels, pay adequate compensation and apologize to their respective owners.”