Governor Nyesom Wike who appears to be in the middle of a serious disagreement with the Federal Government has said as differences escalate that his state will not back down.
Wike who addressed the press in Port Harcourt Friday against the backdrop of the arrest of oil men who were brought into the State by an oil major, Exxon Mobil, repeated he would not allow the lives of Rivers people to be put at risk.
The oil workers who are at the centre of a developing fued between the Federal and State Governments came from neighbouring Akwa Ibom State.
Akwa Ibom has proven cases of the Coronavirus which has left countless across the world on edge.
“As a government, we chose a part of proactive interventions because we place high premium on the sanctity of human lives.
“Following the outbreak of coronavirus in our country, we did not wait to record an index case in our state before we began the enlightenment and sensitization of our people.”
He stressed that the Rivers State Government would not allow itself to distracted from pursuing its avowed resolve to defend 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.
“It is obvious that our containment strategies: closure of borders, closure of schools, closure of markets, closure of night clubs, closure of Cinemas, as well as the ban of public worship, ban of public burials and weddings have helped to check the spread of coronavirus”, the Governor maintained.
Wike told the press that he would only talk to President Muhammadu Buhari over the issue, and nobody else.
He said Rivers State was not within the ranks of what he dubbed ‘begger states’ which go over the ledge in search of federal patronage.
The Governor said those in the custody of the Rivers State Government would be prosecuted for violating an existing order on travel restrictions made by the State.
“Yesterday (Thursday), 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”, Governor Wike explained.
“As a responsive government, we have quarantined them in line with the relevant health protocols and they will be charged to court”, Wike added.
What looks like a constitutional crisis is gradually rearing its head.
Under established conventions, the authority of the Federal Government which is recognized by the Nigerian Constitution supersedes that of the state on all matters.
But Wike who says his interest is the wellbeing of Rivers people is challenging the right of the Federal Government to encourage movements as well as the use of a state’s airspace in times of an emergency..
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State has been redeployed.
His redeployment which may be routine is coming in the wake of the brewing crisis between the Rivers and Federral Governments.
The Commissioner had been seen in the company of the governor when the first arrest of oil workers was made.
The arrest of another batch of oil workers under his watch may have broken the camel’s back.
The Federal Government is yet to react to Wike’s latest action, but observers are beginning to think the Governor may be overstepping his bounds.
An observer who spoke exclusively to the Telegraph remarked, “It seems to me that Wike is now using Rivers people as human shields in waging his war.
“The protection of the Rivers people is germaine, but Wike ought to strike a balance. What will Rivers workers and other Rivers people do if at the end of the day there is no money accruing to the State and country from the Federation Account?”
In other oil producing states essential Staff, including oil men in the field are working without molestation.
Rivers State appears to be the only state which is apparently tacking oil workers to the spread of the virus.
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