By Elizabeth Chukwuma
President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have tactically handed over the management of the lock down in the country to Boss Mustapha, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID 19, and Secretary of the Federation, Chikwe Ihekweazu led Nigerian Center for Disease and Control, NCDC and the state governors.
This may have informed why the governors are competing among themselves to excel in the implementation of the lockdown in their respective states, turning it to mini-countries, because of the strict implementation of the restrictions on inter- state travels: Operation stay where you are till further notice.
There is no gain saying the fact that since the Katsina state born Nigerian President announced the initial two weeks lock down of Lagos and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, which are the two major Cities in the country including Ogun, because of its proximity to Lagos and later extended by another two weeks, the President was still dictating the pace. But all of a sudden, the governors hijacked it from him and started calling the shots in their respective states.
They were said to have beamed their searchlight on hoteliers, Night Club Operators and beer parlours in order to discourage large gathering of people at a place in order to ensure that the COVID 19 guidelines as outlined by the PTF and the NCDC, were not flouted.
In the south west, Babajide , Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos state and Nyeson Wike, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, governor of Rivers state in the south-south geo-political region had proved to be very active in the implementation of the lock down in their respective states that they are on the news on a daily basis.
Sanwo-Olu, who many initially believe was treating the residents of Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center with a kid globe, notwithstanding the rising cases of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, appear to have taken a cue from Wike, who has earned a name for himself in the south-south as ‘’General Wike’’ because of his no nonsense actions, to curb the spread of the disease in the state.
Acting on information, the governor had shut Maggi Hotel and Tambari Theatre Night Club in Badagry West, Local Council Development Area, LCD, for flouting the COVID 19 , guidelines in the state. The question on the lips of most people was why : did it take the governor such a long time to know that that hotels and Night Clubs were operating in Lagos despite the lock down ’’.
Solomon Bonu, Special Adviser to the governor on Tourism, Arts and Culture, who could not hide his feelings had described the Night Clubs , particular, as’’ a place of immoral activities, home for strippers, drug barons and all sorts of mischief that must be shut at nooks and crannies of the state.
The shutdown of the two facilities in the state may have sent a signal to other hoteliers and Night Club Operators in the state who had been operating secretly and smiling to the banks on a daily basis to make lodgment that the game is over . But the Lagos state governor may have given the Maggi Hotel and Tambari Theatre Arts Night Club , owners a soft landing as he has promised to institute a legal proceedings against them to ensure that appropriate punishment were meted to them.
The Rivers state governor may have known from the onset of tackling the Coronavirus pandemic in the state that hotels , Night Clubs and beer parlours are veritable sources of spreading the disease in the state that he was forced to reach out to the paramount Rulers and the Local government Chairmen to acquaint them on the need to ensure that ‘’no hotel, Night Club or beer parlour operate in the state’’.
As a prelude to the implementation of the Law, he had set up a Local government Task Force on COVID 19, Thursday, May 7, 2020, to identify the hotels still operating in the state, particular, Port Harcourt and its environs, despite the lock down. The Task Force, personnel, according sources, may have had some hotels in mind to scuttle down their operations. They were said to have identified two hotels between Thursday and Saturday, May :Podest Hotel in Alode and Etemeth, in Onne, both in Eleme Local government government Area alleged to be operating in the state despite the state government directive that no hotel ,Night Club or beer parlour should open in the because of the lock down.
An aggrieved Wike saw it as an opportunity to use the two hotels allegedly belonging to those in the Opposition Camp in the state , to set an example that nobody is above the law.Recall that he had made it clear to the people of the state on the day of the inauguration o the Task Force that ’’ any hotel, Night Club or beer parlour found Contravening the lock down law will be demolished’’.
It was therefore not very surprising that when Prodest Hotel and Etemeteh, hotols wee caught in the act, the owners knew that they have played into Wike’s hand as he may not go back on his words. The governor may have acted fast to demolish the facilities to avoid giving room to people both within and outside the state to pile up pressure on him to rescind his decision to demolish the two hotels True to his as words, on Sunday, May 10, 2020, bbarely three days of the inauguration of the local Task Force and the total lock down of Port Harcourt and its environs, he had mobilised bulldozers to supervise the demolition of the hotels , amidst tight security.
With the demolition of the two hotels, Wike appear to have sent a signal to the people of the state, no matter how highly placed aperson may be, ‘’those who fail to comply with the government’s directives on measures put in place to curb the spread of the disease in the state would face the Consequences’’.
Dakuku Peterside, a former Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, didi not see any rationale for Wike’s action, describing it as ‘’unlawful and wicked’’. Peterside, who is a known critic of Wike’s Administration disclosed that he has ‘’no concrete plan to curb the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the state’’.
Not many people are surprised at Wike’s demolition of the two Hotels in Eleme Local government Area, near Port Harcourt. This is because he had at one time arrested two Everton Chartered Helcopter pilots for Contravening the state Lock down law at Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Rivers state, which is a Fedral facility. The pilots were arrested despite the fact that they were given permission to fly into the state by the government as explained by Hadi Sirika, minister of Aviation at a COVID 19 briefing in Abuja.
Many believe that if the Rivers state governor has been called to order in the way he is going about with the the implementation of the COVID 19 lock down in the state when he entered the Airport, which is the exclusive preserve of the federal government, to make arrests he would have learnt his first lesson, there is a higher Authority also watching his activities. But Sirika, the minister of Aviation and the Civil Aviation Authority, CAA, officials had merely condemned his actions.
An indigene of Obio Akpor local government Area, who spoke to The Value News On Phone, disclosed that the activities of the Wike’s task Force in Port Harcourt in the recent time has thrown the oil City into a ghost town. The source noted that if it is possible for the Rivers state governor to extend the lockdown in Port Harcourt to Onne, where the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and the Oil Companies have their facilities, he could have done it.
Note that the President had given Hajia Haiza Bala Usman, the Managing Director ,NPA, the nod to keep the gates of the ports open during the lockdown to enable Customs personnel do their job of collecting duties on imported cargoes for the government.
This is because shipping is an International business and the shipping Companies have their scheduled times of movement to discharge their cargoes at a particular port and then, return to their port of destination. It is obvious that any country which ports were found to have closed down its operations because of the COVID 19, may have their cargoes diverted to another country’s seaport. The government may have known the implication of the closure of the closure of the ports operation to the economy in this trying and difficult times due the COVID 19, as medical equipment, supplies and Pharmaceutical drugs could for the treatment of the disease could only be imported through the port. Only recently, the President gave the nod to Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel to allow importers of Medical equipment, supplies and Pharmaceutical drugs which had been abandoned over the years over high of clearing to take delivery of it without payment of duty or Value added Tax, VAT.
He may have taken the decision of giving blanket waiver to the importers as part of the efforts to address the COVID 19, cases in the country. Already, NPA and NCS, officials are working closely together to ensure that the president directive was carried out without further delay. Medical experts would want NPA, and Customs personnel to act fast to contain the disease in the country. As at Monday, May 11, 2020, the number of confirmed COVID cases, according NCDC, had risen to 4,399. This is where Nigerians must support the government in ensuring full implementation of social distancing rules to curb the spread of the spread of the disease in the country.