A 24-hour indefinite lockdown has been clamped on Port Harcourt City and Obio-Akpor Local Government Areas by the Rivers State Government.
The government also said all helicopter operators, especially Caverton and Bristow, must henceforth submit manifests of all their passengers for vetting before flying into the state.
The measures, according to Governor Nyesom Wike, is to further check the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic in the state.
Wike, in a broadcast on Monday, advised all residents of two LGAs to stay at home to avoid being arrested by the officials of the state task force on COVID-19.
He said: “We have decided on the extreme measure of placing the entire Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas under a 24 hours total lockdown from Thursday, May 7, 2020 until further notice.
The governor said the measure was taken because of persistent disobedience to “government’s lawful orders and directives on COVID-19” by a number of communities and residents, especially in the affected LGAs despite repeated warning.
He added: “On the whole, we can all see that COVID-19 cases confirmed across the country are growing in numbers, meaning that the situation in our state, although still relatively low, can change for the worse, if we relax our measures or become complacent
“In view of the foregoing, government has resolved to impose additional measures by the Executive Order, I have just signed, which are targeted at reinforcing our efforts toward stopping the spread of the virus in the state”.
”On no account should there be any vehicular movements or gathering of more than two persons in these LGAs, except those on essential services with appropriate authorization.
“All shops, trading or business activities, including currency exchange, in these LGAs must also remain closed until further notice.
”All landlords are advised to ensure that no shop or trading activity is opened or carried out in or around their premises or risk the confiscation of their property by the government.
“Any person, group or institution that violates the lockdown and curfew in these LGAs will be made to face the full wrath of the law. “
Wike also announced a review of the waivers and permits granted workers of oil companies to enter the state.
He said the review became necessary given the threat posed to the state by oil and gas company workers.
The governor therefore appealed to helicopter service companies to obey the state’s new directives.
He said the 14th confirmed COVID-19 case was flown into Port Harcourt by Bristow Helicopters from an offshore oilfield in Akwa Ibom State on April 29, 2020.
Wike argued that that case confirmed fears that unchecked entry of oil and gas workers from Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere remained a potential source for the importation of COVID-19 in the state.
The governor said, “All inward-bound vehicles and flights to Rivers State from oil and gas companies with workers for crew change or other essential operations must first submit details of their manifests to the state’s taskforce on COVID-19 for proper vetting of their virus status before they can be allowed to enter the state.
”All operators of chartered flights into Rivers State for oil and gas operations, especially Bristow and Caverton Helicopters, should please comply with this directive and refrain from jeopardizing the lives of our people for the sake of making profits.”
Wike also ordered the immediate arrest and prosecution of Chief B.A. Worgu and Mr. Isaiah Abraka for organizing night markets in defiance of existing ban on such activity.
Besides, he issued a stern warning to the Chief Medical Director of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) to stop politicalizing Coronavirus in the state.
He said: “This government is focused and therefore will not allow itself to be distracted on its battle against COVID-19. However, we will neither tolerate nor hesitate to deal with anyone who dares to fabricate lies to rubbish the hard work and sacrifice we are making to save the lives in our people just to advance parochial partisan interests.
“I wish to reiterate that the hard choices we have to make as a government and as a people over the COVID-19 pandemic are all premised on upholding the sanctity of human life. ”
Wike, who also enjoined all residents of the state to wear face masks before stepping out of their homes to the public spaces, prohibited the operations of all private motor parks, taxi parks and loading bays throughout the state.
He said that the COVID-19 task force had been directed to arrest and prosecute any person without face masks in public places or inside vehicles.
Wike observed that while the government was battling the importation of this virus, the greatest threat to people’s lives was posed not by outsiders but by residents’ refusal to conform to the new experience.
The governor said N100,000 would be given to any whistleblower with relevant information leading to the arrest and prosecution of any person, hotelier or motorist that violating government’s directives on checking the spread of the virus.