Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers on Friday announced the arrest of 22 staff of Exxon Mobil, a multinational oil company, for entering the State in violation of the State Executive Order on Covid-19.
The governor, who made this known at a news Conference in Port Harcourt, said that the oil workers, who entered Rivers from Akwa Ibom, were arrested by security agencies.
He said that the 22 oil workers would be charged to court.
According to Wike, Carveton Helicopters also apologised to the state Government over the conduct that led to the arrest of their pilots and passengers for violating the restriction orders.
The governor also pointed out that the Exxon Mobil matter would be what he called “a test case in legal jurisprudence in the country’’.
He said: “Security agencies arrested 22 staff of Exxon Mobil 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.
“Even though security agencies advised that they be 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.
“As a responsive government, we have quarantined them in line with the relevant health protocols and they will be charged to court.’
“Federal Authorities are working dangerously to compromise the health protection system of Rivers State and thereby make people vulnerable to Coronavirus’’.
Wike, who said that his administration followed due process in its actions against Carveton Helicopters, noted that he is focused on implementing extant laws aimed at protecting the people of Rivers.
He said that two pilots of Carveton Helicopters flew in and landed at the Air Force Base Port Harcourt with 10 passengers on board their Twin-Otter Helicopter on April 7.
According to the governor, the crew landed “without any prior notice or approval from the State Government and in clear breach of the extant COVID-19 Regulations and Executive Order’’.
“The pilots and 10 passengers were promptly arrested by security personnel and arraigned before the Port Harcourt Chief Magistrate Court in two separate charges.”
He said that his administration established the right legal framework to assist it effectively fight the spread of Coronavirus in Rivers.
Wike, who disclosed that the second case of the Novel COVID-19 in Rivers had been discharged, gave thanks to God for His blessing to the State.
He praised the management of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) for cooperating with his administration to fight the spread of Coronavirus.
According to him, the NLNG management obeyed established health protocol to check the spread of coronavirus.
“They have consistently liaised with the State Government in the movement of their staff on essential duties. This is what is expected of a responsible corporate organisation,’’ Wike said
The governor also expressed gratitude to individuals and corporate organisations that have strengthened the state’s capacity to fight Coronavirus.
He also said: “Our pragmatic leadership style has therefore earned our state individual and corporate support that have strengthened our prevention strategies’’.
Wike said that his administration developed a comprehensive palliatives scheme to support less privileged people of the state to survive the stay-at-home directive of his administration.
He said that he directed the Palliatives Committee to ensure that their activities were “not partisan, religious or ethnic based’’.
Wike said: “Let me state here that following my directive, the committee adopted a community based approach in the discharge of its assignment.
“The distribution of the foodstuffs is supervised at the ward level by a five-man committee made up of a clergy man, Traditional Ruler, Community Development Committee Chairman, Woman Leader and Youth Leader.
“So far, the Palliatives Committee has distributed foodstuffs to Obio/Akpor, Port Harcourt, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Ikwerre and Eleme Local Government Areas. The Committee has also distributed foodstuffs to Special Homes in Port Harcourt. ”
He, however, announced the suspension of the ongoing distribution of palliatives due to complaints by some members of the public.
He said the action was meant to make the exercise more inclusive for members of the civil society and the media.
Wike restated that the State Government established a Food Purchasing Committee with a directive to buy foodstuffs and fish from Rivers’ famers.
He said The Committee procured foodstuffs and set up food banks in the 23 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.
The governor said that the Committee had set up Food Banks across the 23 LGAs to be supervised by Agricultural Desks in each LGA to ensure that nobody complained of hunger during this period.
“So far, the Committee has purchased a large quantity of garri, yams, rice, palm oil and fish from local farmers and fishermen.
“The overall objective is to empower our farmers and fishermen while also providing enough foodstuffs for the less privileged in the State.’’ Wike said.
He said that it was imperative that all companies or organisations doing full or partial business in the state support efforts at containing coronavirus.
According to him, failure to support us shows total disregard for corporate social responsibility. I want to sincerely thank all individual and corporate donors, who have supported us in the fight against COVID-19.
“At the appropriate time, the Rivers State Government will publish their names in National Dailies and Local Tabloids for posterity.
“These individuals and corporate organisations are indeed friends of the State,” he said.
Wike said his administration chose to be proactive because it places premium on the lives of Rivers people.
“We were the first state in the Federation to close our borders. This attracted criticisms, but we have been vindicated as other states emulated this positive strategy.
“Even though, we have recorded two cases, the index case has been discharged while the second case is doing well at the Treatment Centre,’’ he said.
He said that the containment strategies which included closure of border, schools, markets, night clubs, Cinemas, ban of public worship, public burials, and weddings helped to check the spread of coronavirus.
“This is in addition to the conduct of our healthcare professionals who have demonstrated a high level of patriotism and sacrifice in contact tracing and case management,’’ he said.
The governor warned that those plotting to disrupt the distribution of palliatives would be sanctioned.
He also said that the State Security Council would lockdown some parts of Port Harcourt where some people continue to disregard government’s directive on social distancing. (NAN)