• 60 breadwinners engaged in hotel into labour market — Hotel owner
• We did no wrong — Wike
• Falana, OCJ Okocha differ on Wike’s action
• CSOs, others kick
By Egufe Yafugborhi
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Promise Gogorobari, owner or Prodest Home, Alode, one of the hotels demolished in Eleme Local Government Area of the state by Rivers State government, were yesterday, engaged in war of words.
While the owner of the hotel said they were not in breach of Covid-19 Executive Orders and that Wike had by his action plunged 60 breadwinners engaged in the hotel into the labour market, Wike insisted that that his administration did no wrong by pulling down the hotels, including Etemeteh Hotel, Onne, as the owners violated the order of the state government to check the spread of coronavirus in the state.
Meanwhile, former Nigeria Bar Association, NBA President, OCJ Okocha, SAN, has differed with Femi Falana, SAN, on the role of the governor in the saga, just as civil society organisations kicked over the incident.
Meanwhile, community sources, blamed Prodest Home manager for violating the state government order, alleging that the hotel was open for business while the order was in place.
Gogorobari, said that the destruction of his hotel was, “Already affecting us. We have more than 60 staff there. The state government should be happy I took up some responsibilities from them in gainfully engaging these persons. That investment was taking care of my family and relatives and others around me.
“There was no fair hearing. I did not violate any order. The government was supposed to do some investigations. If they found me wanting, a lockdown other procedures should have been applied, not demolishing a structure like that.
“I don’t stay in Port Harcourt, I stay in Lagos and we are taking about investments in Rivers day and night. I pulled resources together, invested in my place to take some persons off the streets. And what the state government could do was to demolish that investment without proper investigation.”
Wike on his part in his Sunday broadcast, following the demolition, justified his action against both hotels and placement of N5million bounty on Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Youth Leader in the area, Princewill Osaroejiji.
Wike said, “Apart from using the facility (hotel) to jeopardize lives of citizens in violation of the extant law, the owner audaciously unleashed thugs led by Eleme LG Youth Leader of PDP and inflicted severe injuries on our task-force members, who went to enforce the law against continued operation of the hotel.
“As we speak, nobody knows the fate of most of the victims of that brazen and deadly attack given the severity of head injuries they sustained.
“And so, we’ve done no wrong as all our actions were taken in good faith and justified by, under and within the purview of the Executive Orders, which have neither been challenged nor set aside by any competent court of law.
“While we welcome genuine criticisms towards strengthening our intervention measures, there is no use joining issues with uninformed critics and social media legal practitioners, who, blinded and prodded by sheer politics, bias and hatred, have opted to demonize and paint our lawful and responsible actions in bad light.”
However, a company executive resident in Alode and familiar with the business climate at Prodest, told Vanguard on condition of anonymity that, “The hotel owner may have been innocent, but his Manager’s vexed indulgence with wanted PDP youth leader is what backfired and cost the owner dearly. The manager was negligent, believing the youth leader was above the law.”
Another community source said, “It’s true that the hotel was operating throughout the lockdown period based on the Manager’s link with the wanted PDP Youth Leaders. The manager has a history of violence and feared in the area.
“He equally heads a Council Task Force. What happened at the place was with his backing, the hotel ran business in defiance of the state orders. It was when the state Task Force came to warn and stop their operations that the Manager called in the youth leader.
“He came with his men to bully the state task, resulting in the violence in which he’s being accused of shooting at the state Task Force. The hotel owner may not know what has been happening behind him. He lives in Lagos.”
Falana, OCJ Okocha differ on Wike’s action
Okocha and Falana differed, yesterday, on the development with Falana faulting Wike and Okocha affirming he was in order.
Falana said, “It is unfortunate these events are happening in Port Harcourt where the governor of the state is senior lawyer and not just a lawyer, I’m even informed he’s a member of the Body of Benchers. That is colossal embarrassment to the NBA.
“Under our law, an emergency situation under the Quarantine Act does not permit the demolition of a house by an alleged offender. Whoever has breached the law will have to be tried and convicted by a court of law before a sentence can be pronounced.
“There is no provision for even the President to take the law into his hands and then begin to mete out punishments to citizens without recourse to the constitution. We hope the governor will be properly advised to reverse his decisions, publicly apologise and restore the properties of those that have been destroyed.”
Disagreeing, Okocha in his appraisal believed, the measures taken by the Rivers State Government, particularly the governor are well thought out, well advised and will to a large extent help us avoid or at least minimize to the barest level the spread of this coronavirus that they now say causes the illness they called COVID 19.
“I commend the government, I commend the governor for these bold and very laudable steps. The Executive Orders in place by the state governor are appropriate. Everybody accepts that they are calculated to secure our safety and to reduce to barest minimum the spread of this coronavirus. So, I don’t believe anybody has quarreled with any of these orders.
“Its not everything that is going to be on written law. By the authority of written law, some orders are made, some regulations are put in place and those flow naturally from the provisions of written law.
“This is why the Rivers State Government passed a law recently and we also have the Federal Act, Quarantine Act and many other such regulations that are aimed at dealing with safety and security and then health and well being of the people.
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“I do not blame the governor for his action because am aware that the regulation was put in place over two weeks ago for hoteliers and those operating drinking parlours and entertainment centres to close down at least temporarily until we get grip on how to deal this coronavirus pandemic.
“Yes, there was a regulation put in place long before now regarding the lockdown we have had in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City LGAs. I heard that this happened in Eleme.
“Two hotels were warned to stop operating. Indeed, a taskforce was sent to remind them about the Executive Order put in place by the governor and they got their thugs and some local boys to beat members of the taskforce, so the governor was left with no other option than wielding the big stick.
“We also heard people saying oooh, he was impounding vehicles and arresting people on the roads for violating the law on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City councils. What did they expect the governor to do? Fold his hands and watch people to openly and brazenly flaunt what we know are regulations put in place in accordance with law and order.
“So, the governor I think was justified in wielding the big stick on the hoteliers and anybody who feels that he has any reason to dispute should approach the appropriate quarters and let’s us see how far that approach will get him.”
On the governor’s declaration that Managing Director of the affected hotel at Onne has been arrested to face prosecution, Ms Emem Okon, women’s rights advocate said, “What prosecution is he (Wike) talking about after the hotels are demolished? They have been punished before trial, not afforded right to fair hearing.”
Dae Deegbara, on faith of Bariledum Azoroh, Managing Director at Prudent Hotel, Eleme, said, “For no fault of his, the hotel was not actually in full operation before the demolition. Azoroh’s condition and whereabouts remain unknown, living his wife with no source to take care of herself and new born baby.
“In what appears to be an internal Eleme LGA PDP and youth leadership crisis, it shouldn’t have ordinarily rubbed an innocent business owner and orphan, the manager into this sad situation.”
Sebastian Kpalab, Coordinator, Citizens Voice Initiative, said, “This is insane and draconian. This does not promote containment of thecCoronavirus, it has taken away family and individual livelihoods, increased shrinking Rivers economy. It smacks of fatal remedy for a sick situation.”