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CSOs urge Wike to review lockdown of Rivers councils

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Civil society organisations and the Media Situation Room have urged Governor Nyesom Wike to review the 24-hour curfew imposed on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt local councils in Rivers State.

Reacting to the decision yesterday, the groups claimed that “the government policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were worsening the plight of the people,” warning that the embargo on the two strategic council areas “implies a total lockdown of the entire state.”

They regretted that government at all levels had “continued to revel (in) anti-people policies and directives without broad consultation with relevant stakeholders, as the latest lockdown raises serious concern.”

In a joint statement issued by the Situation Room co-chairman, Stevyn Obodoekwe, and Sebastian Kpalap, but read by Karl Uchegbu, the groups worried about the lockdown, adding that it would “further create uncertainty and panic in the lives of those whose only sources of livelihood depend on daily hustling,” describing the policy “as very harsh.”

They stated: “At a time other countries and states are beginning to ease restrictions, it is curious that Rivers State is tightening the screws. At a time the Federal Government took the lead to relax the lockdown which lasted for more than two months, one wonders why the Rivers State government should be planning at this time to embark on total lockdown.”

The CSOs queried: “What are the parameters being used to impose a total lockdown on some local councils?

“Has the government evaluated the distribution of palliatives to know who and who has gotten and how sustaining this has been?

“What provision has the state government put in place to ensure aggressive testing of households in other to detect who has the virus, what sensitisation measures have the government put in place in other to inform the people, especially rural dwellers on the dangers of COVID-19, and the possible avoidable guidelines? How many test centres do we have in the state?”

They submitted that the lockdown was bearing the “back-breaking brunt on the poor masses”, urging the governor to “relax it in the overall interest of the suffering masses.”

The state government was also implored to allow street shops and corner markets operate to, strategically, manage human basic needs for daily provision with the disease containment, noting that such mini markets and shops would take away pressure from the conventional markets that draw large crowds.

“An evaluation should be done on the closure of the borders to see its effectiveness, as it appears that despite the closure of the state borders, the numbers of cases recorded in the state have continued to rise,” the groups added.

In the same vein, the governor has advised monarchs to raise task forces in their respective communities to enforce the closure of markets, hotels and bars in the state.

As the curfew commences from tomorrow, Wike has threatened to demolish any structures or shops that open for business during the period.

He told the traditional rulers yesterday at the Government House, Port Harcourt that the shutdown had become necessary to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic whose cases are 14 in the state.


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