*Explains why he rejected FG rice palliatives
*Says they were expired and unfit for human consumption
From Chukwudi Ejimofor, Port Harcourt
The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has explained why he ordered the lockdown of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas.
He denied insinuations that his action was targeted at causing hardship on the people, but stated that the action was aimed at protecting people in Rivers state from coronavirus infections.
Speaking during a live phone-in programme on Rhythm FM Port Harcourt on Wednesday, Gov. Wike said all measures put in place by his administration in that direction have been to check the spread of coronavirus.
He said: “We have to lockdown Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas in the interest of our people. While individuals feel it, the State Government is also affected because it loses revenue. But lives must be protected. ”
Governor Wike urged Rivers people to continue to pray for the success of the State Government at this crucial time.
He said: “We need continuous prayers to succeed. We have handed this state to God. We can only do much, but God will save our people”.
Governor Wike said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that agriculture and health are key. He said the State Government will work towards further growth in that direction.
“Agriculture is key. We must support our farmers and Fishermen to produce more,” he said.
The Governor said: “Everyone should support the State Government to tackle COVID-19. This is not a period of criticism.
“This is a period where all of us must come together, irrespective of political parties to stop the spread of the virus.
“I thank Rivers people for their support. It has been amazing. I am not moved by the unfounded criticism of a few. I am concerned about the protection of the vast majority of Rivers people, because I have their mandate.”
Governor Wike urged churches to fellowship online and pray for the State within the period. He said that basically, the State Government is taking precautionary measures to protect Rivers people.
He advised Rivers people to make sacrifices at this period. He said food can never be enough, but the State Government will sustain its delivery of Palliatives.
While commending the State Palliatives Committee, Governor Wike said more foodstuffs will be distributed to Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor and the other local government areas.
Responding to a question, Governor Wike said that the Federal Government is yet to disburse any fund to the Rivers State Government in relation to the fight against coronavirus.
He said that the State Government rejected the 1800 bags of rice supplied because they have since expired.
On when the lockdown will be lifted, Governor Wike said the State Security Council will regularly meet to review the situation and take a decision.
He said that in order to check the sabotage of the lockdown, his administration has employed 300 operatives to assist in the enforcement of the lockdown.
The Governor reiterated that his administration has remained committed to supporting Federal Government Agencies with finance and logistics. He blamed the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital management for playing unnecessary politics at this critical time.
Responding to a question by a caller, Governor Wike said that there was no conflict with Shell Petroleum Development Company. He said he is always in communication with the Managing Director of Shell .
Commenting on those allowed to move during the lockdown, he said that those on essential duties must carry their identification and must be on duty.
He said that the State Government is just getting its laboratory, because it takes the involvement of the Federal Government for the machines to be acquired.
He said that his administration will not all the influx of people into the State.
Governor Wike said there is no reason to play politics with the pandemic, because it is not a respecter of persons.
He pointed out that in Bayelsa State , Timipre Sylva who promoted the candidacy of APC’s David Lyon, attracted a Hospital of Infectious diseases to his state.
“Timipre brought Lyon, who won an election, but was sacked by the Supreme Court. But Sylva went ahead to attract a specialist hospital to Bayelsa despite political differences.
“This pandemic has nothing to do with whether or not you supported President Buhari . Politics should be set aside. Knowing that our economy is dependent on oil, Rivers State be the first place for intervention.
“My first priority is to protect the lives of Rivers people. We haven’t locked down the towns before. This is not for anyone to suffer. I am appealing to our people to bear. If we don’t do anything now, our people will suffer.
“The population of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas is high. If it hits us, we will have serious problems. The action is to help our people,” he said.
The Governor added that when the state starts mass testing, the number of those who will text positive will be high.
He emphasised that the Rivers State has not received any assistance from the Federal Government in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Governor reminded Rivers people that coronavirus spiked because the Federal Government failed to close the border and airspace on time.
He recalled that even Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwolu said that the late Border and airspace Closure was the responsible to the explosion of Coronavirus.
He said: “We are taking a proactive measure. We set up border Closure, but we have been sabotaged by security agencies “.
He said that no Government will take tough measures without considering the welfare of the people.
Governor Wike said that the phone-in programme was an opportunity to interact with Rivers people who gave him the mandate to protect them.
He said that the entire world is affected by the pandemic, hence the need to be proactive at all times.