May 10th, 2020
Civil Society Media Situation Room statement on the clear and imminent dangers of continuing with the 24hr Total Lockdown in PORTHARCOURT and OBIO AKPOR LGA
The COVID-19 CSOs/Media Situation room has been following keenly development since the outbreak of Corona Virus Pandemic in the country in general and Rivers State in Particular. Situation Room has also been monitoring the actions of relevant actors around the pandemic including civil authorities, health officials, security agencies and others. It importantly also, to monitor the impacts of the various actions and responses to the pandemic on the economy, lives and livelihood of citizens in Rivers State, especially the downtrodden. Situation Room has as it committed to do from the onset, consistently analyzed put out the reports and feedback from these to both the authorities concerned, as well as the general public, in a concise and consistent manner.
At this juncture, let us take a space and point out that we have taken note of some of the positive steps the State government has taken in the regard of some of the issues Situation room brought to its attention, the latest being its admission of short-comings in the distribution of palliatives in two local councils, namely Obio-Akpor and PHALGA and consequent order to the palliatives committee to repeat the exercise. This is one amongst others and it does show, contrary to some beliefs already spreading, that the State government is indeed concerned about the wellbeing of the people and is responsive to issues affecting same, that comes to his knowledge. Again we say, this is a good step and the right way for any well-meaning government to go with its people.
On the 5th of May, 2020, the State governor, Barr. Nyesom Wike announced the imposition of total lockdown starting from 7th of May,2020 and according to him, this was as a result of citizen’s government measures to curtail the further spread of the pandemic. Consequently, the State capital was locked down. Following the imposition of the 24 hours’ curfew thus, total lock down of the rivers state capital. Civil Society Situation room field and community monitors were deployed to monitor the pattern of enforcement by security operatives and task forces, compliance of citizens to the total lockdown, as well as its impacts on the citizens.
In the course of the monitoring, it was found out that the compliance level by citizens were very high and impressive. In many areas visited, virtually all shops, markets, trading outposts, including drug stores, eateries, restaurants, drinking joints, etc. were all under lock and keys.
Violators were arrested and subjected to mobile court trials which hardly observed principles of fair hearing. Some of them were denied legal representations of their choice; The governor displayed uncommon zeal and commitment towards the enforcement of the lockdown as he moved into the field monitoring compliance.
Citizens cooperation and vigilance also added to the success of the lockdown. Worthy of note is the interception of vehicles that attempted to smuggle a large number of northerners, including Fulani herdsmen and almajirins into the Port Harcourt city in violation of boundary closures and lock down.
Some security operatives found the enforcement of the lockdown as an opportunity to violate people’s rights. Health workers whose sector falls within the essential services were subjected to all forms of harassment and brutalities while on their way to or from their duty posts;
Many had run out of foods in their homes and could not find any sales outlet to buy anything, including food. This has led to increased hunger, hardship, pains and fear of starvation. Bachelors and others who depend on eateries and sellers of cooked food for survival are faced with starvation as there are no food vendors to sell food to them. Some security operatives enforcing the lock down at the Diobu area of Port Harcourt were not spared of the hunger problem as they were seen searching for where to buy anything that could serve as food;
Many citizens who spoke to our field monitors pleaded that the government should consider their plights and end the lock down before starvation would begin to result to mass death.
From the foregoing,
- We most respectfully call on the governor to relax the curfew and lockdown in view of the harsh impacts of the lock down on citizens, especially the poor, the downtrodden, pregnant and nursing mothers. We are concerned that if the governor does not take urgent steps, towards relaxing the lockdown, to mitigate the harsh impacts of the lockdown on the masses, starvation could set in, resulting to kwashiorkor and mass death. This will defeat the noble intentions of the governor to protect the state from mass death.
- We call on the security council to give a reorientation to the security men in operation to forthwith desist from harassing and intimidating citizens around the lockdown local government as we have received several reports of arbitrary arrest of many people who are tired of being indoors and stretching their legs around their neighborhood.
- While the situation room still emphasizes the relaxing of the curfew haven seen the compliance level of citizens, the governor should immediately allow small food shops, pharmaceutical stores with license to operates in their different neighborhood in other to attend to emergency situations;
- That private security companies’ workers should be allowed to move freely to their places of work without undue harassment like the case of Mr. Chijioke Enyi, personnel who works for MANILLA INDUSTRIAL SECURITY SERVICE who was arrested on his way back from work by Navy officers around Iwofe and taken to Elekahia Isolation center despite his explanations and identification.
The Situation Room wants to thank the Rivers State Government and all corporate bodies for their efforts so far to contain the spread of the deadly virus. We are impressed that the state government has not only setup but commenced coronavirus testing of the molecular laboratory at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital on the 8th of May, 2020 adding to the state treatment center at Eleme. The Situation Room also applauds the Federal government’s efforts in setting up a testing and treatment center at the University of Portharcourt Teaching Hospital. In all of the above we recommend that the state and federal government work in unison in other to win this war against the covid-19.
The Situation Room frowns at the level of sabotage by some security operatives and taskforce at the boundaries between Rivers State and other states. These operatives collect huge bribes and give way for in flocks of persons whose corona status is not known. By doing this, they endanger the state, themselves and innocent family members they will be going back home to meet. Again, the situation Room commends the Executive Governor for intercepting the trailers that brought people into the state from other states at a time when both state and Federal governments directive is that our borders be locked down. One begins to wonder why this kind of sabotage should continue to happen when we have the Police, the Army, the DSS, and other security agencies charged with manning the closure of the borders. We demand for immediate investigation into this.
The Situation Room calls on the security agencies to work together with the governor in protecting the state against this dreaded virus, as they cannot afford to be working separately at this time.
Signed for the Situation Room
Stevyn Obodoekwe Chairman
Sebastian Kpalap Co- Chair
Karl Chinedu Uchegbu Spokesperson
Green Isaac Co-Secretary
Prince Ekpere Co-Secretary
Vivian Bellownu Convener
For information and enquiries, contact:
Prince Ekpere – firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Isaac – email@example.com
Rivers State CSO/Media COVID-19 Situation Room
c/o Social Action
33, Oromineke Layout, D-Line Port Harcourt