Stakeholders in Rivers State have lamented the effects of hotel demolitions by Governor Nyesom Wike, in Eleme Local Government of the State.
The stakeholders comprising the academics, civil rights advocates, opinion leaders and chieftains of opposition political parties insisted that irrespective of the violation of the State executive order, Governor Wike would have followed the due process and as well, give the violator a fair hearing.
Reacting to the development, a senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology, University of Port Harcourt, Dr Sofiri Peterside, said, it is imperative for citizens to obey directives but he maintained that in a democratic setting, due process should be adhered to.
He said, “Yes, the governor’s action was very heavy though we are aware that what triggered the action was a gunshot on the air to scare members of the taskforce who visited the facility away. It is also obvious that Eleme is one of the heavily militarized axis, there is cult crisis due to the fight on who becomes the youth leader but no matter what, due process should have been followed”
“A government that is committed to encourage investments in the State should have followed due process because the people are watching even prospective investors”
On his part, the former Commissioner for Information and Communication in Rivers State, Austin Tam-George, pointed out that the owners of the hotels had no opportunity to defend themselves before a Judge, adding that the Executive Order itself is spurious, draconian and ill-defined.
Tam-George in a statement made available to The Guardian yesterday, said the actions of Governor Wike has brought Rivers State into a state of anarchy, lamenting that institutions have been hijacked by a lawless government and that the people themselves have been ‘kidnapped’ by a moral hoodlum in power.
George however, called on the United Nations Human Rights Commission to urgently investigate and initiate criminal proceedings against Governor Wike.
His words, “We strongly appeal to the United States Congress and the State Department to urgently initiate and maintain consequential pressure, including visa restrictions and asset freezes against Mr Wike, for his reign of impunity in Rivers State”.
“We therefore strongly appeal to the European Union to initiate and maintain consequential diplomatic actions, including money laundry investigations, visa restrictions and asset freezes against Governor Wike, who constantly proclaims that “nothing will happen” to him, despite his reign of terror”.
Also speaking, a Civil Rights Advocate, and former Special Adviser to Governor Wike, Christian Inko-tariah, said, anarchy is inevitable when people take laws into their hands.
He regretted that the rule of law was caged and administration of justice roundly subverted in the demolition of the hotels.
He described the action as an infringement on the rights of the hotelier and the owner of the buildings.
He cited such was decided in a more recent case of FAITH OKAFOR V GOV OF LAGOS STATE & ANOR(2016) LPELR -41066 (CA).
Inko-tariah stated that “The court in a unanimous decision averred that none could be arrested or prosecuted for disobeying or flouting Executive Orders or Governor’s Directive unless the Order are in sync with written laws and or the constitution”
He maintained that Governor Wike would have resorted to the law courts and not the ‘shameful’ display of dictatorship, vowing that the Rivers people would ensure the cessation of such action.
“The action of Gov Wike is bestial, illegitimate, illegal and a clear transgression of the law. I expect the victims of the nefarious act to set the coercive legal machinery in motion”. He stated.
On his part, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress and former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New People’s Democratic Party (nPDP), Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, said the governor now sees himself as a natural ruler administering over a police state.
He described Wike’s action as anarchical, stressing that no democratic leader installed through the instrumentality of the ballot can be so draconian, heartless and inconsiderate to plight of the electorates whom he claimed voted him into office.
Eze lamented that the action of the governor has brought pains, hardship and escalated insecurity among others in the State.
Also, the Civil Society /Media Covid-19 Situation Room in Rivers State, said, while it is wrong to violate the lockdown order or closure of business premises by the government, it is also wrong for the government to embark on the demolition of properties without following due process.
The group in a statement signed by the Chairman, Styvn Obodokwe and Co-Chairman, Sebastine Kpalap, said the deeds only qualifies the governor as the accuser, the prosecutor, the court and the sanction executioner.
The group said, “It is a properly constituted competent court that has the power to determine the guilt of a suspect or accused.
” The idea of demolishing properties belonging to suspected criminals or serving as a hideout for criminals is unacceptable and condemnable”. They added.