Condemnation on Sunday greeted the demolition of two hotels by the Rivers State government in Port Harcourt for allegedly flouting the lockdown rules.
Activisist, lawyers and opinion leaders in the state faulted the action, which Governor Nyesom Wike personally supervised as “unfair.”
Wike had vowed to pull down hotels found to be rendering services and buildings whose shops opened for business during the lockdown.
The Prodest Hotel Alode in Eleme and Edemeteh Hotel in Onne were reported to have contravened the order. They were pulled down.
The government also declared wanted Princewill Osaroejiji, owner of Etemeteh Hotel and placed N5million bounty on his head, available for whoever could supply information on his whereabouts.
Osaroejijin is the youth leader of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Eleme Local government area.
Prominent lawyers like Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), and Jite Ogunye, condemned Wike, saying his ‘action was alien to law.
Ogunye, said in a Facebook post: “Beheading is no cure for headache. Recklessness is no courage and brashness is no strength. It is a weak case and a weak haste to unlawfully demolish a property for violating a COVID-19 regulation.
“It is an act of Executive lawlessness to be the accuser, prosecutor, judge and punishment executioner.”
Also on his Facebook page Adegboruwa, in a comment titled: The Emerging Dictatorship in Rivers State, called on Rivers people to “stand up to every form of lawlessness and arbitrariness and defend their rights under the Constitution.”
He added: “The governor of Rivers State is a lawyer, which should be an added advantage to birth good governance. The governor also has a reliable partner as a judicial officer, so that both in the office and at home, law is following the governor and it is written all over him.
“But the story of Rivers State in recent times has become a major worry for all lovers of the rule of law and democracy.
“The Rivers State governor has no legal right in law to confiscate the property of citizens by Executive fiat. Surely, two wrongs cannot make a right.”
Also, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, condemned the demotion as “wicked”.
Igbuzor wrote on his Facebook page: Demolish hotels because they did not obey lockdown guidelines. This is wicked.”
Some Rivers State-based lawyers and rights activists like Somina Johnbull, Obiaruko Ndukwe, Higher King, Dumnamene Fyneface, Prince Wiro, and Green Isaac, also berated the governor’s action.
Johnbull said: “It should be stated that there is no power under the Land Use Act to summarily demolish buildings even if the right of occupancy had been revoked. The Land Use Act is the Principal legislation on this subject matter even in Rivers State.
Wike’s opponent in the 2015 governor election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress(APC), Dakuku Peterside, said the governor had through his latest action shown that he had become a” full-blown dictator.”
Peterside, the immediate past director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said Wike’s action was “wicked, insensitive, irresponsible and unlawful.”
Explaining the action, the governor’s Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, said the demolition was in line with the state government Executive Order 6, which bans the operation of hotels across the 23 local government areas of the state during the lockdown.
He quoted Wike as saying: “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.
“We are not saying it will be forever. This is for now, so that we know where we are. To reduce the cases and check the spread.
“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.
“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.
”Look at the rate of infections, most of these people are found in hotels. Look at the man that died, he was at Mingi Hotel in Rumumasi. Due to that contact, we have had other seven cases.
“Some people may not like our strategies, but our objective is to achieve results. People talk about hunger. But it is only a living person that can discuss hunger.
“What we are doing is to tell the people that the state government is serious. This being led by me, people should know that the government is determined to ensure that we defeat Coronavirus.”