By Austin Tam-George
“Yesterday afternoon, two hotels in the Eleme community of Rivers State were demolished by a team led by the Governor of the State, Mr Nyesom Wike.
According to a statement by the State Government, the hotels had violated an Executive Order, banning the operation of hotels in the State until further notice.
No formal charges were brought against the affected hotels before a court of law, by the Rivers State Government. The owners of the hotels had no opportunity to defend themselves before a Judge. And the so-called Executive Order itself is spurious, draconian and ill-defined.
But the illegal demolition of the hotels yesterday fits into a long and sickening pattern of lawlessness and impunity by Governor Wike in Rivers State.
In July 2017, Governor Wike had shut down and revoked the Certificate of Occupancy of Novotel Hotel in Port Harcourt, simply because critics of his lawless regime had lodged overnight at the hotel.
In the past three years, Mr. Wike has deployed his private army of thugs, disguised as State “task forces”, to kill innocent citizens, loot markets and shops, terrorize young women in Port Harcourt, and extort money from drivers and traders in Rivers State.
Three weeks ago, on the 24th April, Sergeant Lovender Elekwachi, a traffic warden on duty in the Eneka area of the State, was murdered in cold blood, by Governor Wike’s marauding task force. The tragic incident was widely reported by the media, including the BBC.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only served as a perfect smokescreen for Governor Wike to escalate his reign of criminality and terror in Rivers State.
On the 27th of April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, warned governments to refrain from violating fundamental human rights, “under the guise of exceptional and emergency measures” during the COVID-19 crisis.
But in the past six weeks of the pandemic, Governor Wike has caused the death of a law enforcement agent, confiscated private properties, demolished hotels, brutalized market women in Port Harcourt, and held pilots and oil workers on essential duties in illegal detention.
The alarming acts of lawlessness by Mr. Wike mean that Rivers State has descended into a state of anarchy. State institutions have been hijacked by a lawless government, and the people themselves have been ‘kidnapped’ by a moral hoodlum in power.
Governor Wike is an extremely powerful politician in Nigeria, who is widely deemed to be above the law.
1. We therefore call on the UN Human Rights Commission to urgently investigate and initiate criminal proceedings against Mr. Nyesom Wike in Rivers State.
2. 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.
3. Governor Wike is well-known for his expensive vacation junkets to European cities, even as children die from preventable water-borne diseases 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.
We believe that those who hold public office should never be above the law.”