Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike has explained the reason for making good his threat to demolish hotels operating in Port Harcourt, the state capital despite the ongoing 24-hour lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The Governor in his explanation stated that after the hotels were found culpable for violating it’s lock down regulation, the Government had no other alternative but to pull down the hotels in other in oder to apply the Executive order which he (Governor Wike)signed before the lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt.
Recall that Wike, while placing the capital city comprising Port Harcourt and Obio-Akpo local government areas on curfew, vowed to pull down hotels still operating during the lockdown and buildings, whose shops opened for business.
A statement by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Paulinus Nsirim, on Saturday said some hotels were already found culpable of disobeying Wike’s lockdown directive.
Nsirim identified defaulting hotels as Prodest Hotel, Alode, Eleme and Edemeteh Hotel, Onne and said they would be demolished in line with the governor’s executive order.
The governor stunned persons, who thought he was joking over the demolition threat, when he accompanied a bulldozer to the Prodest Hotel.
Accompanied by armed security operatives, he watched as the earth-moving machine pulverized the hotel.
The same fate befell the Edemeteh Hotel, Onne.
However the Governor in his explanation said that the focus on hotels was because one of the coronavirus cases in the state spread the virus from a hotel.
Wike who monitored the demolition of Prodest Hotel, Alode, Eleme said his action was in line with the Rivers State Government Executive Order 6, which banned the operation of hotels across the 23 Local Government Areas of the State.
Governor Wike told newsmen at the demolition scene that the law must be obeyed, hence the State Government’s decision to enforce it.
According to him; “Government has no alternative but to apply the Executive order which I signed before the lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt. I called all the Traditional Rulers and Council Chairmen and told them to ensure that no hotel operates in the State.
“We are not saying it will be forever. This is for now so that we know where we are. To reduce the cases and check the spread.
“Whether you are PDP or not, all we are saying is that nobody is above the law. If we can do this to a PDP person, then you know we are not discriminatory. Everyone must obey. Whether you are in the PDP, SDP or no party, you must obey the law. If any other person does the same thing, the same rule will apply.
“We said no hotel should operate within this period. Unfortunately, the PDP Youth Leader in Eleme joined others to flout the Executive Order. Therefore, the executive order will be applied.
“We said if any hotel operates, the government will bring down that hotel. We are doing what we have told people that we are going to do.
“Nobody wants to obey any rules. We are saying just for now, keep off, let us see how we can keep our people safe.
“Look at the rate of infections, most of these people are found in hotels. Look at the man that died, he was at Mingi Hotel in Rumumasi. Due to that contact, we have had other seven cases.
“People should help us and support the Government for Rivers people to be safe. The Security Council will meet to review the strategies and achievements or setbacks, moving forward.
“All we are doing is to protect our people. Some people may not like our strategies, but our objective is to achieve results. ”
Governor Wike reiterated his declaration that no hotel should operate anywhere in the state, adding that the Managing Director of the hotel at Onne has been arrested.
In a similar development the governor further demonstrated his no-nonsense disposition to his directives for the containment of the pandemic, when he stormed some roads in the capital city to enforce the lockdown.
Wike, who was in jeans trousers, long-sleeve shirt and a cap, personally stopped cars including pilot vehicles conveying very important personalities and ordered security operatives to take them to isolation centers.
He ordered vehicles of the defaulters to be impounded and asked mobile policemen escorting their principals to trek home.
The governor only allowed persons on essential duties and a pregnant woman, who said she was going for ante-natal to proceed to their destinations.
Stakeholders condem Governor’s action
On the Governor’s declaration that Managing Director of the affected hotel at Onne has been arrested to face prosecution, Ms Emem Okon, women’s rights advocate, responded, “What prosecution is he (Wike) talking about after the hotels are demolished? They have been punished before trial, no right to fair hearing.”
Dae Deegbara, on faith of Bariledum Azoroh (PHD), Managing Director at Prudent Hotel, Eleme, said, “For no fault of his, the hotel was not actually in full operation before the demolition. Azoroh’s condition and whereabouts remains unknown, living his wife with no source to take care of herself and newborn baby.
“In what appears to be an internal Eleme LGA PDP and youth leadership crisis, it shouldn’t have ordinarily rubbed an innocent business owner and orphan, the manager into this sad situation.”
Sebastian Kpalab, Coordinator, Citizens Voice Initiative, 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.”