Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, on Sunday supervised the demolition of two hotels in Eleme and Onne for violating the Executive Order 6 of the state government, which banned the operation of hotels in the state.
The affected hotels, Prudent Hotel, Alode in Eleme, and Etemeteh Hotel in Onne, were said to have been operating despite the executive order barring all hotels in the 23 LGAs of the state from opening for business to check the spread of COVID-19.
However, the immediate past Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dr Dakuku Peterside, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and other rights groups have described Wike’s action as unlawful and wicked, adding that the governor had no concrete plan on how to fight coronavirus.
But Wike after monitoring the exercise maintained that the law must be obeyed, hence the state government’s decision to enforce it.
The governor disclosed that those involved in the crime would be prosecuted, adding that the managing director of the hotel in Onne had been arrested.
“Government has no alternative but to apply the Executive Order, which I signed before the lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt. I called all the traditional rulers and council chairmen and told them to ensure that no hotel operates in the state.
“…Whether you are PDP or not, all we are saying is that nobody is above the law. If we can do this to a PDP person, then you know we are not discriminatory.
“Everyone must obey. Whether you are in PDP, SDP or no party, you must obey the law. If any other person does the same thing, the same rule will apply,” he said.
Wike restated his declaration that no hotel should operate anywhere in the state.
“We said no hotel should operate within this period. Unfortunately, the PDP Youth Leader in Eleme joined others to flout the Executive Order. Therefore, the executive order will be applied.
“We said if any hotel operates, government will bring down that hotel. We are doing what we have told people that we are going to do. Nobody wants to obey any rule. We are saying just for now, keep off, let us see how we can keep our people safe,” he said.
The governor added that the focus on hotels was due to the fact that one of the cases in the state spread the virus from a hotel.
Peterside in a statement from his media team read, “Governor Wike is not a law unto himself and cannot be the law. For good measure, the governor rounded off by saying he would demolish buildings or hotels found wanting in implementing his orders without recourse to the due process of law and natural justice that confers the right of fair hearing on the accused.
“Governor Wike’s utterances do not suggest that he is fighting the coronavirus pandemic alone. His actions suggest that there is more than what he is telling Rivers people,” he stressed.
Peterside explained that Wike’s attitude was capable of leading to the breakdown of law and order, saying, “Those who bear the crude method of the governor and their families could resort to mass protest, capable of exposing the state further.”
Also, three rights groups, Spaces for Change, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre and the Action Group on Free Civic Space, condemned the invasion of the two hotels, saying the owners had no opportunity remove any valuables before the buildings were pulled down.
“Particularly distasteful is Rivers State Government’s campaign of terror over the last few weeks, ruthlessly clamping down on civic freedoms in the name of combating the spread of coronavirus,” the groups said in a joint statement on Sunday.