COVID-19: Reactions trail demolition of two hotels in Rivers for flouting Govt order

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

Reactions are now trailing the demolition of two hotels in Rivers State on Sunday, by the state government over flouting the government order on lockdown to check spread of coronavirus.

The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike had on Sunday monitored the demolition of Prudent Hotel, Alode, Eleme and Etemeteh Hotel, in Onne Eleme.
He said the demolition is in line with Rivers State Government Executive Order 6, which banned the operation of hotels across the 23 Local Government Areas of the State.

Governor Wike told journalists that the law must be obeyed, hence the State Government’s decision to enforce it.

He said: “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 PDP, SDP or no party, you must obey the law. If any other person does the same thing, the same rule will apply. ”
Governor Wike reiterated his declaration that no hotel should operate anywhere in the state.

“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, 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,” he said.

Meanwhile, there are mixed reactions now trailing the action of the state government in demolition of the hotels.

A Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Barr Angus Chukwuka, noted the effort of Governor Nyesom Wike in trying to contain spread the virus in the state, but stated that the action of the government in the demolition of the buildings was hasty.

He said: “one must consider the fact that the hotel was operating despite the lockdown order. They should have also obeyed instructions in view of the level of danger posed by COVID-19 pandemic and knowing that the orders were given in order to contain spread of the virus. Everybody understands the reason behind the order and the fact that all over the world orders were given.

“Secondary, the governor must be appreciated for fighting relentlessly to avoid serious outbreak from occurring.

“However, he might have acted excessively notwithstanding that there are other majors that could have helped the situation, like locking the place up sometimes, ceasing their license from them. The punishment was too harsh considering the economy and the fact that everybody is trying to survive. I will advise the governor not to be too rigid considering what people are passing through.”

Also speaking, a Rivers indigenous Activist, Sebastian Kpalap, said “I personally condemn the demolition of a private hotel in Eleme by the Rivers state government led by Governor Wike for allegedly violating Covid-19 lockdown directives.

“It is insane and draconian. This is extreme and does not promote the containment of the Coronavirus. It has taken away family and individual livelihoods even as it has increased the shrinking of the economy of the state. It smacks of a fatal remedy for a sick situation.”

Also, Mr Karl Chinedu Uchegbu, spokesperson for CSO/Covid-19 Situation Room, said: “The announcement about the offence was made yesterday (Saturday) and by today under a window of 12 hours the sanction has been executed. If I may ask, who tried the offenders? Is demolition the only punitive sanction? If the owners of the hotel were operating in violation of the lock down, wouldn’t have been better to stage a sting operation and catch them red handed so as to punish the culprits. Later the same people will be mouthing gibberish about people de-marketing the state. What can be worse for business than a state that advertises scant regard to right to private property?

In her reaction, Ms Emem Okon, an Environmental Justice campaigner condemned the terms, the Rivers State Governor is handling and managing the coronavirus lockdown processes in the State.

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