The year 2020 must have come and gone but the ravaging havoc of the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic came barely at the end of 2019 rolling into 2020 as the Wuhan China Virus as it is commonly called, hit Nigeria. In February 2020. It necessitated the Lock Down action carried out by various authorities as a way of restricting human contact with the Corona Virus that can stick on metals for 72 hours.
Hence for Rivers State, the executive Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike did not waste time in first of all closing all borders linking Rivers State with neighbouring States of Akwa Ibom, Abia, IMO and Bayelsa states. Next was the closure of places of Worship, schools, Markets and Entertainment outlets such as Night clubs and Fast-food outfits all in the state.
But, what many people did not know is the leadership quality the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is made of…as he quickly set up Inter-ministerial Covid 19 pandemic Committee with the Commissioner for Information and Communications Pastor Paulinus Nsirim as Chairman. This committee held meetings regularly with other stakeholders in health care and its related quasi organizations in making sure that citizens remain indoors and involving Community plus opinion leaders to inform their people about the impending danger in having unprotected contact with Members of the public without wearing recommended face-mask and consistent washing of hands with running water and alcohol-based sanitizers.
Again, the Rivers State Governor Mobilized the business community operating in Rivers State especially International Oil Companies-IOC to provide financial relief since the budget of the state for 2019 was running out and that of 2020 yet to be in operation. It was this Clarion call by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike that brought in Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas -NLNG to mandate its staff General Manager, Corporate Services, Joe Alagoa with other management Staff of Nigeria LNG to make donation of items worth over N825 Billion to Rivers State Government in support of the fight against COVID 19 pandemic. The Boss Mustapha (SAN) led the Presidential Taskforce on Covid 19 pandemic in collaboration with Dr. Chikwe Ihekwoazu led the National Center for Disease Control to release grants of One Billion naira (N1 Billion) to States for use in the fight against the spread of Coronavirus.
For a competent administrator, Governor Wike mobilized various hands in establishing Covid 19 Pandemic Taskforce erecting structures at Eleme town in Eleme Local Government Area as a holding Isolation Center for those already diagnosed with Covid 19 pandemic. The Primary Health Care center at Abuja road beside Mile 3 Ultra-Modern Market Port Harcourt was also designated as Isolation Center for those under close watch for 14-days Quarantine observation. The Yakubu Gowon Stadium Elekahia Rumuomasi in Obio/Akpor LGA Port Harcourt CITY was designated as a testing Centre for suspected Covid 19 Pandemic held- up persons.
The good thing that helped in containing the spread of Coronavirus in Rivers State is the Involvement of other health workers from surveillance to those from Preventive and Social Medicine of University of Port Harcourt, Disease Surveillance and Notification officers of Rivers State Primary Health Care Management Board, Technical and Administrative staff of Rivers State Public Health Emergency Operations Center. In fact, Nigeria NLNG also provided items worth Three Hundred Million naira, (N300m) donated for the upgrading of health facilities at University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital-UPTH, Port Harcourt which came at a time other health Institutions were filled to their brim because of the number of in-patients and Out-patients all whisked away from defaulting points against Executive Order issued by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
On Monday, 15th of March,2021, this reporter visited Yakubu Gowon Stadium Elekahia Rumuomasi for a check on facilities provided by Rivers State Government in containing Covid 19 pandemic in the state, the stadium back stage looked overtaken by weeds although it is a stadium hosting Real Madrid Football Academy, Rivers State. The playing arena has in- built tent about two but the testing of persons for Covid 19 is being carried out in the open with ordinary canopy and unkempt environment.
Following the observations, this reporter visited the office of Health Commissioner Professor Chike Princewill at Rivers State Secretariat same day on Monday 15th of March, 2021 he was said to not regularly visit his office since he has been in the Frontline of containing the spread of Covid 19 pandemic in Rivers State. On Tuesday 16th of March,2021, this reporter made a telephone call to Professor Chike Princewill by 21:12 GMT and he was on the road after receiving One hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) pieces of Vaccines for citizens and residents of Rivers State to take their jabs cum shots. “Can’t you see that as a political office holder I am not meant to be at the office to do my work. Today I took my own shot of Covid 19 Pandemic vaccine and I am on the road by this time of the night.” Health Commissioner Professor Chike Princewill said. However, he declined responding to a questionnaire raised by this reporter for further clarification on Covid 19 pandemic management and containment in Rivers State.
One important thing that Rivers State Governor did was setting up Covid 19 pandemic Committee with the collaboration of Ministry of Health to monitor observance of the Governor’s Executive Order on burial and Wedding ceremonies involving persons more than 50 or up 300 to write Rivers State Ministry of Health with list of invited guests and their contact phone numbers and house addresses for contact tracing should any outbreak occur after the ceremony. The approval from the office of the executive Governor usually delegated to officers in the Ministry of Health and Inter-ministerial Committee on Covid 19 pandemic in Rivers State who visits venues where such events are holding making sure that only those whose names and addresses were approved are allowed to gain access to participate in the wedding or burial ceremony or Church activities. This has saved a lot of lives in Rivers State as those diagnosed to have died as a result of Covid 19 pandemic were buried by the state government at designated Port Harcourt public cemetery. Two scenarios where a First-Class King in the traditional precinct of the Governor Nye Nwe Eli Orubebe of Akpor kingdom was buried outside his traditional home while the incumbent Local Government Council Chairman Odari Princewill of Asari Toru Local Government Council died almost same day with Financial Director of Niger Delta Development Commission—NDDC from Covid 19 pandemic and Port Harcourt CITY cemetery was the burial place. With this, Governor Wike showed his outstanding political will to abide by the Oath of allegiance and Oath of office which he took upon being sworn into Public office which is to save life and property if the residents and citizens of Rivers State St all times.
Recall that Rivers State Governor, Chief Barrister Nyesom Ezenwo Wike had to demolish two hospitality outfits at Eleme town said to have contravened the Executive Order issued by the Governor. On another occasion while inspecting citizens’ compliance to the executive order some unauthorized persons who were seen outside their homes had their cars seized by the order of the Governor.
Overall impact showed reduction in the number of Covid 19 Pandemic spread in Rivers State. This made Rivers State to move from number 5 the position that it occupied in October, 2020 to somewhere lower in the chart for States in Nigeria with Covid 19 Pandemic patients and number of deaths in Nigeria.
For Governor Wike, sharing of Covid 19 Pandemic Palliative was seamlessly carried out with Ambassador Desmond Akawor taking the responsibility of visiting the 319 Electoral Wards in the 23 Local Government Areas of Rivers State and shared food items and other sanitary materials that helped in saving more lives in Rivers State. The use of town criers in various communities and the traditional Rulers bring close to the people were available in making sure that their subjects observed the Covid 19 pandemic Protocols. The use of social media campaigns and that of Radio and Newspapers came at the right time in educating the masses on what they should do to remain safe.