Rivers residents lament chaotic gridlock, hardship triggered by curfew
Findings by The Guardian revealed that all the major roads in Port Harcourt City Local Council and Obio/Akpor Local Council hosts police stations and following attacks on security formations in the state that left 11 officers dead, the stations, including the Command’s Headquarters along Moscow Road, Port Harcourt were barricaded.
The situation increased gridlocks across the state as motorists drove against traffic on the few access roads.
Sadly, there was no police personnel at the usual traffic posts to control the traffic, forcing volunteers, bus conductors and touts to try to solve the problem, yet the situation grew worse.
The latest review of the curfew law by Governor Nyesom Wike, from 7.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m., which began yesterday, escalated the sufferings, with motorists stuck in the gridlock till 10.00 p.m.
Residents, including students, pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly, among others, were also stranded at various bus stops, as people raced to get home to avoid falling foul of the law.
A distance, which ordinarily took about 30 minutes to get to, yesterday took over five hours, forcing some motorists to abandon their vehicles on the road and trek home. Many commuters, who could not access commercial vehicles due to the brawl associated with boarding the vehicles, also were seen trekking home.
Banks and other offices closed as early as 2.30 p.m. to escape the traumatic situation.
Most residents, who could not bear the situation, took to different social media to decry the imposition of curfew. They said the governor’s decision was not the best option, as it has increased hardship and pressure among the residents, adding that the situation could force a surge in poverty and criminality.
They urged the state government to adopt other options in tackling the rising insecurity, lamenting that Nigerians have been pushed to the wall since last year, warning that further lockdown may attract unusual reactions.
Speaking with The Guardian, a civil rights activist and chancellor of the International Society for Social Justice, Omenazu Jackson, said, “Many people are suffering, the hardship has become so much, all the major roads in the state are blocked, this is a hellish experience.
“Locking down the state is not the best security measure, but deploying high level and credible intelligence will go a long way to dislodge the miscreants, who are killing police personnel, from the state.
“We know that the hoodlums, who killed the innocent policemen, are not flying on the road, they have their hideouts and so on; so, the security apparatus in the state and Federal Government should adopt intelligence gathering instead of compounding the hardship in the State.
“Several man-hours have been lost and this will increase poverty… if you are going to a business, work or market, before you get there and return, the day is gone. This is not good for the state at all.”
Similarly, a budget analyst and civil rights activist, Ken Henshaw, said, “I think the government is acting out of desperation by introducing a curfew. The job of terrorists is to introduce fear and any time you act based on that fear, either by introducing a lockdown, curfew or repressive laws, the terrorists are happy because they have instilled fear in you.
“So, I do not think that the Rivers State government has taken the right approach by introducing a new lockdown. The best way to handle this is to strengthen the security apparatus, and then mark terror with legality.”
Henshaw reasoned that the gunmen attacked the security men with ease because the security infrastructure was inadequate.
While warning that curfew or lockdown would not solve the current security challenges in the state, he stressed the need to boost the security infrastructure.
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