Rolling back its tanks: Government moves towards reopening the Rivers economy

Within an interval of one week, the Rivers State Government has made two moves which may signal a significant change in its strategy towards  the war against COVID-19.
Last week, the State government allowed a four-day corridor which gave the people in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas access to the marketplace.
Initially, the plan was precisely for only two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, but there was a major turn around.
Four days after, new-lockdown-free-days have been announced by the the same government which only Sunday ordered the people to go right back into their homes.
Beginning from Thursday, six additional days shall be observed as lockdown free days in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor.
The two LGAs account for more than half of the over two millions voters in the State.
Governor Wike Wednesday, announced the new decision to allow a great majority of Rivers people access to stay on the streets.
“Residents and visitors of these local government areas can therefore go out of their homes for their lawful businesses from tomorrow morning, that is, Thursday May 21 until 8.00 p.m., Tuesday 26th of May 2020, when the lockdown will be restored and maintained until further notice.”
Cynics say the need for the PDP to complete the swearing in formalities of its new officials more than anything else determined last week’s decision to allow movements.
They allege that there might be other reasons why government has again allowed free movements.
There is however no proof of this.
Nonetheless, Wike said groceries, supermarkets, banks and some other business were free to operate.
He warned that regulations which make the wearing of face marks, the maintenance of social distance as well as the reduction of number of passengers in taxes, busses and tricycles remain in force while all land, air and sea entry or exit points remain closed.
“It is important to emphasized that the relaxation only allows for free human and vehicular movements and the opening of limited businesses, such as banks, supermarkets, shopping malls and grocery shops.
“All land, sea and air exit and entry borders and routes into Rivers State shall remain closed.
“Similarly, all open markets, motor parks, hotels, bars, night clubs, in-service restaurants and barbers’ shops must remain shut.
“Religious gatherings of more than 50 persons remain prohibited.
“All public weddings, burials and other social gathering also remain prohibited.
“Private and commercial vehicles, including tricycles must continue to limit the number of passengers to two persons only.
“The wearing of face masks or coverings in public spaces, including commercial and private vehicles remains compulsory as contraveners would be arrested and summarily dealt with as the law demands,” he noted.
Prior to the relaxation of the lockdown order, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke,  former member of the House of Representatives and Publisher of the Port Harcourt Telegraph had debunked claims that a plot to torpedo the administration exists.
Nwuke who spoke on phone with the AIT said that the allegation made by the State Government was amazing.
He said that no one in Rivers State, including the leaders of the APC and the people, was planning any such move.
He explained that the people had made sacrifices in the fight against the Coronavirus, but said what Rivers people are demanding is a smart way of implementing strategies.
The former lawmaker urged the Wike administration to implement policies which have a human face, saying “we must roll back restrictions while finding a smart way of ensuring that guidelines put in place do not affect the welfare of the people.”
He acknowledged that “this fight is about the people”, adding that the government has a duty to listen to the people.

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