As part of measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus codenamed COVID-19, the Rivers State Government says it is working with the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to tighten surveillance at the domestic wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Princewill Chike stated this during a live radio programme in Port Harcourt, monitored by The Tide in Port Harcourt, weekend.
Chike said the Rivers State Committee on Coronavirus Enlightenment was doing everything within its powers to ensure that all entry and exit points to the state are well checked.
According to him, “At the domestic wing, we want to also commence screening because we fear that the virus carriers may also come in through Lagos or Abuja routes. Passengers might disembark in Abuja or Lagos, and then take domestic flights to Port Harcourt.”
The commissioner said he was at the airport with the terminal managers and the zonal team that took him round to ensure that the appropriate preventive measures were in place, saying, “So, we don’t want to leave any stone unturned and our team is also ready”.
Chike also advised residents in the state to adopt extra caution to prevent the virus from entering Rivers State, and urged residents to adhere to simple personal hygiene and not panic.
“The state government is doing everything possible. It is not the time for fear but fact. We still encourage people to maintain high hygiene. Wash your hands severally with soap and water, and then, you also add alcohol-based sanitizers, then, the social distancing and coughing onto the flex arms of your elbow.
“As much as possible, reduce contact. If you can’t avoid handshake, in fact, you can give the person a beautiful smile from a distance, and then, continue. We are talking about you being alive and not contracting this virus.
“The airport is in the purview of the Federal Government but what we are doing is assisting and making sure the Port Health Service and our own medical surveillance teams are on the ground to make sure that these things are done. Like when we discovered one or two things that are not functional, we pointed it to them, and they have corrected that and made sure they are done,” the commissioner added.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has assured that the state government would proactively announce additional measures to check the scourge of Coronavirus pandemic in the state, today.
Addressing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) delegates at the State Elective Congress in Port Harcourt, last Saturday, Wike said that the state government would continue to put appropriate public health safety measures in place to protect Rivers people.
The governor said: “By Monday, the state government will take additional measures to tackle the novel Coronavirus.
“It is important that we continue to take this matter very seriously. The mere fact that there is no confirmed case does not mean that we should relax.”
Wike explained that the state government had directed that precautionary measures must be taken before the state PDP Elective Congress was held.
According to him, “That is why we said that before any delegate is allowed to come inside the venue, he must have his/her temperature checked and hand sanitizer applied.
“We continue to pray that there will be no confirmed case in Rivers State”, Wike added.
Earlier, the Rivers State Government had ordered the closure of all schools in the state and directed religious organisations to restrict their activities as a result of the global novel Coronavirus pandemic.
In a state-wide broadcast, last Friday, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike said that the action was taken in the interest of the state.
The closure affects public and private primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, effective today.
The governor stressed that, “Based on the above precautionary measures, the state can be described to be at an alert state. To further strengthen our resolve to protect our citizens, the state government has taken the following decisions: “All schools in the state are to be closed down with effect from Monday, March 23, 2020. All religious organisations are to restrict their activities.”
Wike explained that his administration took the decision with a deep sense of responsibility.
He said: “As you are aware, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has described Coronavirus as a global pandemic. This development calls for collective action by all well-meaning citizens.
“As a responsive government, even though we have not had a confirmed case of Coronavirus, we did not rest on our oars as we set-up a five-man inter-ministerial committee to carry out an aggressive public enlightenment that will protect all those living and doing business in the state from the disease.
“This decision was taken because we understand that we are the headquarters of the hydrocarbon industry and also a major commercial hub in the country that attracts people from all walks of life across all continents.”
The Rivers State governor noted that with actions taken, the state was alert to address any situation.
“The committee had since its inauguration carried out stakeholder engagement with Community Development Committees, religious groups, principals and head teachers of schools, traders’ association, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), military, paramilitary, police, International Oil Companies (IOCs) and chairmen of local government councils under the auspices of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).
“In addition to this, radio and television jingles, flyers and billboards have been fully utilised by the committee to pass the prevention message to all the nooks and crannies of the state.”
The governor added: “The state Ministry of Health has also been empowered to set up intervention resources: 158 surveillance and ad-hoc personnel have been trained. One treatment centre, holding centres in the two teaching hospitals and all general hospitals in the state are fully functional. All health workers, both private and public have been trained and briefed on infection control measures and appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hand sanitizers have been procured, infrared thermometers have been procured, other commodities and equipment have been stockpiled, and we have redoubled surveillance at our airports, seaports, waterways and land routes.”
Wike pleaded for the understanding of Rivers people, adding, “My dear good people of Rivers State, as painful as these decisions may seem, it is a sacrifice we must make to protect ourselves in the face of recent developments.
“Let me assure all those resident in the state that the state government under my leadership is ready and willing to protect their lives at all times.
“May I, therefore, call for the understanding and collective support of all and sundry to keep our state safe from Coronavirus. Together, we shall win with God on our side”, Wike noted.
However, following the executive order by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for all schools to close, effective today, the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku has warned that any school that does not comply with the directive would be sanctioned.
Speaking during a press briefing, held last Friday, at the State Secretariat, Port Harcourt, to announce the setting up of an additional five-man committee to ensure compliance of schools to the governor’s order, Ebeku, pointed out that the immediate closure of all schools as directed by Chief Executive Officer of the state does not in any way confirm that there is any Coronavirus case in the state.
The education commissioner added that it was better to prepare for war than wait for the war to start before preparation.
Ebeku noted further that these are not good times in the world, reminding Rivers people that the World Health Organisation has already warned African countries to prepare for the worst, with increasing cases of the virus across many countries on the continent.
“With a deep sense of solemnity and responsibility, I must say that these are not good times for us. The scourge of the virus called COVID-19 is ravaging virtually all countries of the world, and WHO has warned African countries to prepare for the worst.
“Earlier today (Friday), the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, as a dynamic and responsible leader, had in a state-wide broadcast, announced that all schools in the state are to be closed with effect from Monday, March 23, 2020.
“This is the most painful, but necessary decision to protect the people of Rivers State, particularly our schools growing children from the pandemic, and the order of closure affects all schools, both public and private, and from primary to tertiary institutions.
“In furtherance to this decision, Chief Nyesom Wike has set-up a committee to monitor compliance with the order for closure of schools. I have also set-up a five-man committee which has been mandated to move round the state to ensure compliance,” Ebeku added.
Kaniye stated that in addition to the committee set-up by the Rivers State governor, he also set-up another follow-up committee to monitor compliance in order to ensure that any school that goes against the governor’s directive is sanctioned and the operational license retrieved from the school.
“For the avoidance of doubt, any private school that violates the order of closure will have its operating license withdrawn”, Ebeku warned.
On the issue of duration of the closure, the commissioner stated that the closure was indefinite for now, pending the seriousness or otherwise of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
On the issue of allowing the pupils to finish their examinations, Ebeku explained that the government had agreed with school heads to ensure that all examinations were concluded before today.
Mother And Child Hospital To Be Commissioned Soon, Wike Confirms
The 258-bed capacity Mother and Child Hospital in Rivers State is to be commissioned soon.
The two- storey complex also has 50 delivery rooms and six modular theatres, among other modern facilities.
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, announced this, yesterday, when he led members of the State Executive Council on an inspection tour of the Hospital and the Rumuogba Flyover Bridge.
Wike said the health facility would provide specialist services for mothers and children.
He stated that government plans to open the facility for public use before the end of 2020 and has ordered the contractors to speed up the installation of equipment and furniture.
“Within the next one month, we hope that all the equipment and furniture will be installed.
“As a government, we are committed to improve our health facilities so as to provide quality health care delivery in the state.
“The facility was conceived to be a partnership between the state government and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“But the NDDC did not fulfil their own part of the agreement. The state government decided to construct the facility because of its importance to the state.
“This is the first Mother and Child Hospital in the entire South-South. It is a specialist hospital that will take care of the children and our mothers.
“After commissioning the hospital it will be attached to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital to also train doctors,” he stated.
Wike also said that there was an intensive upgrade of facilities at the various zonal hospitals across the state to make them functional.
He stated that his administration would not solve all the problems in the health sector before 2023 but would strive to improve on what was met on ground.
According to him, when the rehabilitation of all the zonal hospitals across the state was completed, healthcare delivery would receive a major boost.
Commenting on the progress of work at the Rumuogba flyover bridge, the governor said, it was satisfying to see what proper deployment of scarce resources can achieve.
“I am satisfied with the extent of work at the Rumuogba flyover. This work started in October, 2019 alongside the flyovers at Rebisi and Okoro-Nu-Odo.
“It is a job we must commend. I decided to take members of the State Executive Council to come and see the project with their eyes.
“Whatsoever money that the council has approved, we have made sure that it is being used properly.
“We did not make a mistake by giving the contract to Julius Berger Nigeria PLC.
“We are confident that the Rebisi flyover will be opened to traffic in December, 2020,” he added.
No Going Back: Labour Insists On Reversal Of Fuel, Electricity Tariff Hike
The organised labour, yesterday, insisted that the Federal Government should revert back to the old prices of petrol and electricity tariff, if not the strike will stand.
This is as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, and the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Quadri Olaleye, had a hot altercation over the letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse the prices of petrol and electricity tariff.
Meantime, Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF), Boss Mustapha said that deregulation of the petroleum sector was long overdue, but the TUC President maintained its previous position that government should revert to the old prices before any discussion would continue.
The meeting, which took place at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, had in attendance the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva; the Minister of Power, the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN; and some relevant agencies and parastatals.
Sources at the technical session which was under closed-door said that the labour has not changed from its previous position that the government should go back to the old prices of petrol and electricity tariff.
In his presentation, the TUC President had told Ngige to withdraw the statement that the centre was not right to write to President Muhammadu Buhari, arguing that as the President of the country all the economic decisions end on his table.
Besides, Olaleye during his presentation insisted that the TUC stood on its earlier submission that the government should reverse the increases before they would resolve on anything.
He had said, “The most important thing to us today is that we are here, we are engaging with you. Like I mentioned in the last meeting we had here that if we have been having constructive engagement in the past, maybe we would have been able to solve some of these problems.
“But the government turned a deaf ear to us even before the arrival of the world enemy Covid-19, we have written to the government suggesting an alternative way to run the economy, but nobody ever listened.
“And I can send to you many communications from Labour movement suggesting solutions and now we have found ourselves in this situation but the truth of the matter is that Nigerians are suffering and it is our responsibility as Labour centres to fight for their rights, to protect their interest.
“N30, 000 minimum wage was agreed last year and now there is an increase in PMS price, increase in tariff of electricity, the introduction of stamp duty and some other hardship on the workers and their families. We live in a country where a worker is responsible for more than 12 people.
“At least, eight from his family and the other six from the in-law’s house. I wonder how N30, 000 will be able to cater for all these but instead of the government to look at a better way to increase our lot, we are the sacrificial animal to make the economy better for few people.
“I heard when the minister mentioned that the country belongs to all of us, I as a person except you change my impression, I believe the country belongs to the few politicians that take decisions and make policies that are very hard for us to live in this country.
“If the country belongs to all of us, the question is why are people running out of this country, our youths are running out of this country despite all the dangerous obstacles on the road, many have lost their lives.
“Can somebody run out of his father’s house when nothing is pursuing him? So definitely the answer is now. Let’s make the country to belong to all of us so that we can be a bona fide owner of our country.
“Democracy is all about the people, we voted a few people who represent us at the government level and when decisions and policies are to be formed, we are the first to be considered.
“The politicians have scrapped the middle class that we used to have, they have taken away our hope, it’s either you are rich in this country now or you are poor. No more middle class and these are the things we need people to look into if we actually want peace in the country.
“Nigerian workers are suffering, a lot of people have lost their jobs especially during this COVID-19 and the only solution government could bring to their doorstep is that they should pay more for electricity, they should pay more to buy petrol.
“This hardship is getting too much, so whatever solution we are bringing, must be holistic, something that everybody will feel that the country belongs to all of us sir.
“Be that may, the Honorable Minister I wish to call your attention to your regular statement that TUC that TUC did not address the letter to you. I want to disagree with you due respect to your office, we honour your office and we will not do anything to undermine your office.
“But this issue is the issue that Mr President himself has to handle, we are not talking about the minimum wage, increase or any price with government, we are talking about economic issues and we have elected Mr President to lead and that is why we have addressed that issue to him.
“But if you want to insist sir, that because the letter is not referred to you, then TUC can excuse you I know it’s a statement of divide and rule which will not be acceptable to this congress sir.
“But I have to retreat that the submission of TUC as at last week still remains, that you reverse all those increases then you can come up with economic recovery solutions that you have.
“I know many times we have advised you to diversify the economy and we even mentioned the introduction of the issue of modular refineries and we have never had any feedback from the government”.
But reacting to the call for the withdrawal of his statement, Ngige said, “I have been the Minister of Labour and Employment for five years plus. I have attended all International Labour Organisation (ILO) sessions, Governing Board and General Assembly, I have not missed any.
“The competent authority of every country is the Minister of Labour. In many climes, it’s Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Minister of Labour and Public Civil Service Affairs and Minister of Labour and Social Investment.
“The Minister of Labour is the competent authority of any country. In those countries too, labour matters are first addressed to the Minister of Labour.
“We have not tried to enforce this rigidly as it should be but in other climes, all labour and industrial matters and social security are channelled to the government to Head of State through the Minister of Labour.
“I don’t want this to continue. I have raised it with the TUC President before. The TUC President after being elected did not see his Minister of Labour, he did not correspond to Minister of Labour about the election, he went ahead to book an appointment to see Mr President and Mr Vice President.
“I will not sit on this seat and allow this to continue. All correspondence to government, President should come to the Ministry of Labour, that is the channel. If I don’t react, you can report me by doing a reportage to a higher authority but as far as Nigeria is a concern, I’m the competent authority here on labour matters.”
Speaking earlier in his opening remarks, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha said that deregulation of the Petroleum sector was long overdue.
He said that the policy was not to inflict hardship on the masses, adding that at the end of the day the people will be better for it.
He said, “The president has said that no government decision taken is intended cause any pain or harm ”.
President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said that Labour was the only organisation that is pan-Nigeria and that the best way to address challenges, whether social economy or labour issues was to try to proactively engage Labour and have its perspective.
He said, “We are here to continue with the dialogue that started last week. As you are aware, after the dialogue, we were able to update all our members.
“We are here to find a lasting solution to the perennial issue of the twin challenges of the increase in pump price in the name of deregulation and also the issue electricity tariff increase, which we have explained the impact on Nigerian workers, but importantly the larger Nigerian society.
“I think the argument has been the same – people want to see a reduction in those prices which will then improve the lives of Nigerians, particularly workers.
“Clearly, part of the challenges is that this new increase has also reduced our purchasing power and eroded the gains that we have been able to make with the minimum wage, whereas we speak, many states are yet to implement.”
RSNC Gets New Helmsman …As Njiowhor Takes Over From Ukwe
The outgoing Acting General Manager of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC), Mr Goodluck Ukwe, has formally handed over to the most Senior Director in the corporation, Mrs. Juliet Njiowhor.
She is also the new Acting Editor (Daily) of The Tide Newspapers.
Ukwe, who took over from Vincent Ake, the former General Manager of the corporation in April, 2020, formally retired from the Public Service of the Rivers State Government on September 15, 2020.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, Ukwe thanked the management and staff of the corporation for the cooperation and support extended to his administration.
He said that since April when he took over, the corporation has remained afloat despite the economic challenges in the country occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ukwe listed some challenges facing the corporation to include lack of fencing of the premises to ensure security of employees, and the moribund rotary machine, obsolete printing machines, amongst others.
Responding, the Acting Editor (Daily), Mrs Juliet Njiowhor, commended Ukwe for his leadership qualities, which ensured that the corporation bounced back after a three-month shutdown, and has remained afloat since then despite the economic challenges in the country.
Njiowhor said that the legacy of the outgone Acting General Manager would be sustained, and called for the support of the management and staff of the corporation to take the state-owned newspaper outfit to the next height.
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