Wike to Ayu: Vote of confidence can’t save Ayu
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State

…as Nigerians fear threat to democracy, human rights


As the fight against the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues across the country, there are several governors whose approach to the exercise suggest a lack of confidence in the efforts of the federal government to contain the spread of the disease.

This has resulted in, among other things, the refusal of these governors to cooperate with federal authorities managing the health crisis in Nigeria. Instead, they allow their personal decisions to supersede at any point of conflict with national guidelines. Perhaps most surprising among the defiant governors is Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, a perceived core Buharist.

Last weekend, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Coronavirus formally reported Gov. Bello to President Muhammadu Buhari for what it termed the governor’s hostile attitude to it. The task force is also not happy with Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Ben Ayade of Cross River State for alleged lack of cooperation with the committee in the fight against COVID-19.

Equally not impressed by the attitudes of the Kogi and Cross River State governments is the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), particularly on claims by the two states that they are Coronavirus free. The association says the two states must follow the testing guidelines issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) before having such bragging rights.

BusinessHallmark gathered at the weekend that the federal government may impose a lockdown on Kogi State or declare a state of emergency if Gov. Bello continues to defy the PTF.

The PTF, according to sources, is angry at the “very poor” attitude of Bello to the management of Coronavirus epidemic, which has led to the conduct of only two tests so far in his state. The committee suspects that the state may be suppressing information about Coronavirus infections in its territory, going by the governor’s alleged maltreatment of NCDC officials sent to the state.

The four-man NCDC team to the State was allegedly hounded and escorted out of Lokoja by some policemen and security agents up to the airport road in Abuja on the order of the governor. The development and reports of some cases at the Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja, the state capital, are said to have fueled suspicion by the PTF that the state has more to hide on COVID-19.

Consequently, the PTF has met with all the security agencies to “keep them abreast of the breach of the Quarantine Act by the state government.”

A top-level source said: “The facts at our disposal have shown that Kogi is at the risk of COVID-19 because it is a melting point for interstate travellers and it shares borders with 12 states (about one-third of the states in the Federation) which had recorded infections. The border- states are Ondo, Ekiti, Edo, Kwara, Niger, Anambra, Niger, Enugu, Osun, FCT, Plateau and Benue.

“Kogi has only conducted two tests despite the increasing rate of community spread. We were shocked that the state government has refused to fulfil its obligations as enshrined in the Quarantine Act 1990 CAP 384 LFN.

“Yet, the PTF has been very polite in relating to Bello. For instance, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire on Tuesday called the governor and it was agreed that a four-man team of NCDC would be sent to the state.

“But while receiving the four-man team on Thursday, he said they should handover the letter they brought to the state commissioner for health. In the process, the commissioner had contact with the head of the team and the governor fretted by ordering his immediate quarantine.

“Following refusal to be quarantined, the governor humiliated the team by ensuring that they were escorted by armed police out of Lokoja to the airport road in Abuja.”

On Sunday, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Prof. Itse Sagay, said the federal government should back up officials of NCDC with security agencies and send them back to Kogi State to ascertain the COVID-19 status of the residents.

“That is a clear act of illegality. It is a clear case of provoking a more powerful entity than you and he got away with it. Even as a layman in medicine, nobody needs to tell me that Kogi State is probably full of COVID-19 infected people,” Sagay said.

“From all that Yahaya Bello is doing, he is covering up. It’s as if there is a prize he will win if he continues to say there is not a single case of COVID-19 in the state. It is a  childish and infantile act”.

“Now, he is covering up but what it means is that when the thing spreads and the death toll continues to rise like the case in Kano, then he will be overwhelmed and nobody will tell him before he crawls back to the federal government”.

“So, Yahaya Bello is just testing an authority that is far higher than him but he should thank God that we have an accommodating Federal government. The NCDC officials know there are COVID-19 infected cases in the state and the whole thing is just a cover-up. I suspect it is the same situation in Cross River” he said.

Gov. Ben Ayade

Management of COVID-19 pandemic is raising eyebrows in Cross River State, with some claiming that Gov. Ayade’s approach to it is political and mercantile. Others have, however, said whether his approach is okay or not, at least his proactive measures have kept the virus out of Cross River till date.

The early closure of the Cross River-Akwa Ibom border at the Itu bridgehead and that of Gakim border with Benue State and other borders are believed to have helped to keep the state safe. The main issue of public concern is the use of face masks and social distancing, the release of 50 cars to fight COVID-19 and the latest approval of N900 million from the account of the 18 local government councils by the state’s House of Assembly for the use of government to fight COVID-19.

Ayade had ordered the compulsory use of face masks or no movement and N300, 000 fine to be imposed on any defaulter plus quarantine for a period of 14days. He went further to order the state’s Garment Factory to produce one million face masks and distribute free to the people, but it failed to meet the target.

However, opposition parties and individuals are suspicious of the entire process, calling it a conduit pipe to milk the state dry, just the same way the super-highway and deep seaport projects are deemed unrealistic pipe dreams.

Some persons have alleged that the Ayade COVID-19 fight is a scam and questioned why, despite presidential directives that states should not touch council funds without elected council officials, the state’s House of Assembly recently approved the release of N900 million with the approval of the civil servants who are Head of Local Government Administration (HOLGA). For five years running, the state has had no elected council chairmen and councillors. The government has been challenged to make public all funds for COVID-19 and how they are being expended.

While launching the face mask programme, Ayade said, “Because I am a professor of science and I know how this virus moves; I know its aetiology, I know its transmissibility; I know its antigenicity; because I do, I know that once you put on these masks, you already have been protected. You don’t need social distancing when you are properly protected because for your mucal glands that secrets the mucus and the musings already form a network of coats to attack the virus”.

The statement attracted criticisms from different quarters. While as a guest at an Arise television programme, PDP governorship running mate in Ogun State in the 2019 general election, Dr Rueben Abati, wondered how “a bunch of sycophants and bootlickers” were around Ayade when he made that statement without a dissenting voice.

Abati said, “This is the way Nigerians behave when they are around the man of power; they just switch off their brains and replace it with sawdust. There have been many myths about Coronavirus and one of those myths is Ben Ayade, who happens to be a professor and I think he needs to go and do some homework and check up again on the literature because what he is doing there is a case of disinformation. Ayade is not an expert on COVID-19; he is not a medical doctor. He should just keep his peace”.

Gov. Nyesom Wike

Gov. Wike is not new to controversy and excessive wielding of influence in the pursuit of his convictions. But his recent demolition of two hotels in Eleme Council for allegedly flouting the state executive order to the effect of total lockdown in Obio-Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas may have further vindicated those who see the governor as playing above the law.

Less than two weeks after he pulled a business brush with oil industry air hauling company, Caverton Helicopters, Gov. Wike went for a bigger animal in the hydrocarbon industry, arresting 22 staff of ExxonMobil, an American big player, and ordering their quarantine. He said the oil workers entered the state from Akwa Ibom, a neighbouring oil-rich state, in violation of the state executive order.

“Security agencies arrested 22 staff of ExxonMobil who came into the state from neighbouring Akwa Ibom State, in violation of the extant executive order restricting movement into the state. We do not know the Coronavirus status of these individuals,” Gov Wike told journalists at the time.

The governor also announced that Carveton Helicopters had apologised to the state government over the conduct that led to the arrest and prosecution of two of their pilots and 10 passengers who violated the restriction orders of the state.

Wike appeared geared for a hard-hitting legal battle with the American oil conglomerate; saying, “ExxonMobil matter will be a test case in legal jurisprudence in Nigeria. We will fight this matter legally. ExxonMobil does not operate in Rivers State. That they have a point at the Onne seaport does not mean that they operate in Rivers State.”

He said, “even though security agencies advised that they are allowed to go back to Akwa Ibom State, I insisted that the law must take its course. This is because nobody is above the law.”

Wike, who had ruffled feathers lately with the minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said it was regrettable that federal authorities were working dangerously to compromise the health protection system of Rivers State, and thereby make it vulnerable to Coronavirus.

“Some people want the escalation of the virus in Rivers State. People were paid to canvass a negative narrative on Carveton pilots. We are doing what we can within available resources to fight Coronavirus. You can fly, but as you fly and land, don’t enter our territory,” he vowed.

Governor Wike said that Rivers cannot be manipulated from any quarters. “Nobody will use Rivers State as a toy. This Federal Government does not like us, but a government will come that likes Rivers State.”

Wike had earlier berated the federal government for allegedly politicising the fight against the spread of COVID-19, describing the selective support to states as unfortunate. He said:

“It is quite unfortunate that the containment of coronavirus has been politicised by the federal government. While Lagos State received a grant of N10billion as a commercial hub, Rivers State as the nation’s oil and gas hub that produces a greater percentage of the nation’s wealth has not received any support from the federal government.”

Reacting to the governor’s fight against Coronavirus, a renowned political scholar and activist, Dr Uche Igwe, described Gov. Wike as a hypocritical leader who has an addiction for tyranny. He was responding to reports making round in the media about how the governor allegedly lifted the ban on COVID-19 lockdown just for the inauguration of the new executives of his political party.

The event which held at Obi Wali cultural centre has been criticised by many observers especially as pictures emerging from it shows that the rules of social distancing were ignored. According to the pundit, “I am shocked that Governor Wike lifted this ban for selfish political reasons. He definitely does not care about who is infected by COVID-19 as far as his political objectives are met.

”It is clear that he prefers to be the governor of PDP, not rivers State. His has demonstrated his preference for politics rather than the health and wellbeing of the people.”

A public affairs commentator, Chris Amadi, said, ”Nothing has exposed Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike’s despotic proclivity and lack of administrative tact like the coronavirus pandemic.

“His primitive approach towards combating the deadly virus accentuates his flagrant disregard for the rule of law, due process and human rights as it appears the pandemic has provided him a cover for the unrestrained abuse of power.”

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