My Dear Good People of Rivers State,
On Friday May 1 2020, I addressed the state of Coronavirus transmission in our State and the measures in place to mitigate and protect residents from the pandemic.
- During the briefing, I hinted that the State’s Security Council (SSC) will review the situation, and where necessary, impose additional measures.
- In the past few days, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has diagnosed several positive cases of COVID-19 infections in the State, some of whom were persons flown into the State by Oil and Gas Companies for their operations.
- The latest of these positive cases was the 14th case who was flown in to Port Harcourt as recent as Wednesday the 29th of April 2020 by Bristow Helicopters from an offshore oilfield facility in Akwa Ibom State.
- These external carriers have confirmed our fears that unvetted entry of persons, including Oil and Gas workers from Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere, poses a potent source and treat for the importation and spread of COVID-19 in our State.
- Furthermore, we have also observed with disappointment the persistent disobedience to the State Government’s established directives and advisories on COVID-19 by a number of communities and residents, especially in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas despite repeated warning.
- On the whole, we can all see that COVID-19 cases confirmed across the country are growing in their numbers, meaning that the situation in our State can also change for the worse, and the numbers increasing, if we relax our measures or become complacent.
- In view of the foregoing and the overarching need to stop the spread of the virus in its tracks, the State Government has by virtue of Executive Order No. RVSG 06 2020 imposed additional measures to reinforce the ongoing efforts toward the spread of COVID-19 in Rivers State, as follows:
(i) All residents must wear face masks before stepping out of their homes to the public space;
(ii) The operations of all private motor parks, taxi ranks and loading bays throughout the State is hereby prohibited;
(iii) All hotels, guest houses and related outfits must remain closed;
(iv) All hoteliers must provide the State Task Force on COVID-19 with the manifest of those already lodged in their hotels before the coming into effect of this directive;
(v) No commercial taxi driver should carry more than three passengers in his vehicles per trip;
(vi) No commercial bus driver should carry more than 40 per cent of full capacity of his vehicle;
(vii) All tricycles (Keke NAPEP) must limit their passengers to two persons only;
(viii) No private vehicle should carry more than three persons in the car;
(ix) All drivers, persons or passengers in commercial and private vehicles, including tricycles, must wear face masks and observe the use of sanitizers;
(x) A task force has been set-up to:
(a) arrest and prosecute any person without wearing face masks in public places or inside vehicles;
(b) impound and auction any vehicle with persons or passengers without wearing facemasks;
(c) arrest and prosecute any driver loading or off-loading passengers at any private motor-park, taxi rank or loading bay;
(d) impound and auction any vehicle loading or off-loading passengers at any private park, taxi rank or loading bay;
(e) confiscate and auction any hotel and guest houses operating in defiance of the ban; and
(f) Government will give N100,000.00 to any whistle blower who gives out relevant information leading to the arrest and prosecution of any person, hotelier or motorist that violates these directives.
- Although the greatest threat to the spread of this virus is posed by the external carriers who come into our State with the virus; the fact is also given that residents refusing to comply with the established directives on COVID-19 and change their behaviour to the new reality are any better.
- No Government worth its name would continue to tolerate such intransigence in the face of the extreme danger posed to general public by this virus.
- Consequently, we have decided on the extreme measure of placing the entire Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas under a 24 hours total lockdown from Thursday 7th May 2020 until further notice.
- All residents of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas must therefore stay at home until further notice;
- On no account should there be any vehicular movements or gathering of more than two persons in these Local Government Areas, except those on essential services, who must be appropriately authorized;
- All shops, trading or business activities, including currency exchange, in these Local Government Areas must also remain closed until further notice.
- All Landlords are advised to ensure that no shop or trading activity is opened or carried out in or around their premises in the two Local Government Areas or risk the confiscation of such property by the Government.
- Any person, group or institution that violates the lockdown and curfew in these Local Government Areas will be made to face the full wrath of the law.
- Furthermore, we have reviewed all entry waivers and permits earlier granted to Companies and in addition, decided as follows:
(i) from now on, requests for waivers and entry permits from companies will be considered on a case by case basis;
(ii) all inward-bound vehicles and flights into Rivers State from oil and gas companies with workers either for crew change or other designated essential operations must first submit details of their manifests daily to the State’s Taskforce on COVID-19 for proper vetting of their virus status before they can be allowed to enter the State;
(iii) all operators of chartered flights into Rivers State for oil and gas operations, especially Bristow and Caverton Helicopters, should please comply with this directive and refrain from jeopardizing the lives of our people for the sake of making profits;
- We have cause to sternly warn the Chief Medical Director of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Professor Henry Ugboma to stop politicizing the issue of coronavirus in the State with his rascally, irresponsible and ill-motivated utterances;
- This Government is focused and therefore will not allow itself to be distracted on its battle against COVID-19. However, we will neither tolerate nor hesitate to deal with anyone who dares to rubbish the hard work and the sacrifice we are all making to save lives in our State just to advance parochial partisan interests.
- Finally, I wish to reiterate that the hard choices we have to make as a Government and as a people over the COVID-19 pandemic are all premised on upholding the sanctity of human life.
- As a Government, we cannot abdicate this compelling responsibility and abandon our people to chances in the midst of this much dreaded and ravaging pandemic.
- All that we continue to ask therefore is the cooperation of everybody to adapt to the new and inevitable reality by obeying the Government directives and advisories on the lockdown, social distancing, proper hygiene, staying at home and wearing of face masks in public.
- We very much understand the social and economic pain inherent in some of these measures but they are necessary and temporary measures, which we shall review in no distant period, as we get set to gradually ease the lockdown and open up our economy.
- Thank you and God bless you all.