NIGERIANS do not need the tension that is developing between the Federal Government and the Rivers State Government over the alleged contravention of the closure of the state’s borders to prevent further rise of the new Coronavirus pandemic in the state.
In line with the general trend of State governors shutting their borders and restricting the movement of residents, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, had on March 25, 2020, ordered the temporary closure of the land, sea and air borders of the state.
Rivers is one of the 16 states and Abuja with confirmed Coronavirus cases.
But Caverton Helicopters flew some expatriates into the state which angered Governor Wike. He went with a detachment of security officers and got the pilots of the helicopter arrested and remanded. The governor also ordered that all passengers in the flight be traced for possible testing and quarantining.
The governor declared Caverton Helicopters persona non grata in Rivers State.
He ordered the closure of all its offices in the state and directed local government officials not to allow it to operate till further notice.
Caverton Helicopters cried out to the Federal Government. The Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, during a routine briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, heavily criticised the governor and the security agents who arrested the pilots.
Sirika reminded the governor that aviation is a sole Federal legislative preserve and that the Federal Government authorised the flight to ensure that operations in our oil industry are not obstructed by the war on COVID-19. He added: “We have the authority to approve such flight, and we will do everything lawful to get the pilots back”.
This misunderstanding is worrisome and unnecessary for several reasons. Both the Federal Government and the Rivers State Government mean well for the people.
While the State is fighting to contain this pandemic which has halted daily activities all over the world, the Federal Government is ensuring that the nation’s main source of livelihood continues to function for our collective benefit.
As we see it, there is nothing in this matter that could not have been quietly discussed and settled without it developing into a war of nerves being conducted in the public arena.
We are sure that if the Federal authorities had discussed the issue with the governor, arrangements would have been made to fly in the personnel without endangering the people or giving impression of overriding the Governor’s Executive Orders.
In a democracy like ours, consultation and mutual regard are keys to smooth conduct of intergovernmental relationships. It is not a matter of power show.
We call on the two sides to talk it over and avoid anything that will distract our war against the coronavirus pandemic.