DAY TWO OF RIVERS LOCKDOWN: A MONITORING REPORT
Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC) has been monitoring and reporting issues around the fights against corona virus disease by the Federal, State and Local Governments in Nigeria since the first case was reported on February 27, 2020. Advocacy Centre does this from human rights perspectives and reports violations in the nine States in the Niger Delta through our One Million Youth Volunteers Network of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters. We also monitor and report through a coalition of national civil society organizations coordinated by Spaces for Change Lagos as “Action Group on Free Civic Space in Nigeria” working as COVID-19 Tracking Team. This report focuses on Rivers State where total lock down was declared on Thursday, May 7, 2020. Our day one report and expectations of day two are available on our website and can be read HERE. This report summarizes and analyzes developments in Rivers State on day two, being Friday, May 8, 2020 total lock down of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of Rivers State by the Governor of the State, Nyesom Wike citing Executive Order N0. 006.
Issues around the arrest of 214 persons (including the 14 arrested with cows) and impoundment of 22 vehicles that violated the lock down order on day one, May 7, took centre stage on day two, May 8. Majority of those arrested on day one were those carrying out exercise in their neighbourhood, walking on their streets or seating in front of their houses which constitutes violations on the part of Government and security operatives as they should not have expected people to not see daylight in front of their houses because of the lock down. The rest were persons arrested at Rumuigbo community with cattle from Adamawa State and company staff that the Governor said an Assistant Commissioner of Police gave ‘illegal movement permits’. A pregnant woman heading to hospital was arrested by the Governor himself on day one and freed on “compassionate grounds”. Thus, her issues did not feature again.While 170 of this number were summarily reportedly convicted by the mobile court sitting at Yakubu Gowon Stadium with an option of fine with their vehicles set aside for auctioning, others who are ‘above the law’ and have contacts of highly placed persons in society were set free without trials. Also on day two, residents of Ward 20, Amadi-Ama in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area and Mgbosimini, Rumueme in Obio/Akpor Council area were warned in a statement by the Rivers State Commissioner for information, Paulinus Nsirim for flouting lock down orders. This alleged flouting of orders would have earned the affected areas lock down which the Governor was using to indiscriminately punish areas that demonstrate disobedience like those of Diobu, Ikoku, Education bus stop area, etc. if not that the affected areas are already on the total lock down. The action of the Deputy Commissioner of Police infuriated the Governor on day one such that he said there are no two governors in Rivers State and called an emergency State Security Council meeting by 3PM on May 7. The outcome of the meeting was expected on May 8 but from the Governor’s State-wide broadcast, the meeting did not hold as he said in paragraph 30 that “I…assure you that the State Security Council will soon meet to review the situation and direct as appropriate”. Also in the governor’s broadcast on May 8, he put the figure of those arrested with cattle in Rumuigbo at 22, not the 14 he earlier mentioned in a statement on May 7. In paragraph 5 of the broadcast statement, the Governor talked about “…lorry-load of livestock with 50 persons who illegally entered the State” and then announced a reward of N5million to Rumuigbo community’s vigilante for their bravery in arresting of the trailers, a group that he had earlier banned across the State.
On the other hand, surprisingly, the governor announced the auctioning of only 4 trucks out of the over 22 vehicles impounded and forfeited to the State on May 7. He listed the four trucks as;
(i) IVICO Truck with Reg. No. KBK 336 XA;
(ii) DAF Truck with Reg. No. Adamawa MUB 20 YH;
(iii) HOWO Truck with Reg. No. Adamawa HNG 608 XA; and
(iv) DAF Truck with Reg. No. PKM 48594 XA
The State also announced the interception and impounding of eight trucks as well as the arrest of 200 persons on day two as against 214 arrested on day one of the lock down. Security operatives enforcing the lock down are known to be at the forefronts of human rights violation under the guise of enforces government orders. They are also known to be collecting bribes and allowing authorized Trucks, Lorries, Trailers and persons into Rivers State against the Federal Government directive of state boundary closures and restriction of movement by the State to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Governor had repeatedly accused the Federal Government and the Police of sabotage and thus, established task force to man the boundaries alongside the Police. However, both outfits are compromising and violating Government orders with impunity. Hence the reward of a local vigilante that did what they could not do.