• Sunday, April 21, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Rivers government clamps down on businesses of perceived political foes

What I will do if my successor turns against me – Wike

Clampdown politics may have begun in Rivers State as power tussle resumes in the highest form following cracks within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state between the Governor Nyesom Wike camp and Atiku Abubakar camp, some affected members have alleged.

But Governor Wike in a swift response said it was not clampdown.

The public woke up Friday morning, August 19, 2022, to the news of shutdown of one business or the other belonging to Atiku men.

Trouble began days ago when Wike claimed that politicians including those in his party (PDP) were recruiting cultists and training them for the 2023 election. He threatened to demolish hotels and other centres found to do so.

Many feared that the same pattern used to clamp Dagogo Fubara, an Atiku man (member of the House of Reps), who wished to contest the governorship primaries of the PDP, was being re-invented.

Fubara spent over three months in detention without ever knowing when the primaries were held.

Now, as Wike and Atiku seemed to begin a fight within the PDP on the way to capturing power in 2023, Wike had vowed to teach his enemies a hot lesson, saying he would deliver all Rivers votes to whomever he wanted.

Lee Meaba, an Atiku man, had countered him, saying the Atiku camp was not fazed by such threats. The governor may have been enraged by such affront as he dissolved any board where Atiku henchmen held sway.

Every day, Wike finds excuse to berate the Atiku team members in Rivers State such as Auston Opara (one time deputy speaker of the House of Reps), Abiye Sekibo, Chinyere Igwe, Lee Maeba, and many more.

Now, today, those men woke up to find that their businesses had been shut down. The government house has not explained the reason, other than the previous threats of shutting down places where cultists are meeting, including a filling station.

It was gathered that the attacks was on business owners and destruction of properties at the popular Building Materials Market at the Kala area of Obio/Akpor LGA by men of the Taskforce set up by the Rivers State Government.

There was also the sealing up of three business premises (Priscy’s Lounge, Preray Hotel & Mega Tools Ltd.) within the Port Harcourt City LGA, and subsequent arrest of about 19 customers whose only crime was patronising these businesses by agents of the Rivers State Government, which observers have described as barbaric.

Igwe, who is being advised to stay away from Rivers State, told newsmen on phone that his workers were shocked at night when strange men backed by armed security ransacked his filling station.

He said he was lucky because the invaders could not find any drop of fuel hidden anywhere. They allegedly sealed up the place.

Reacting, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, speaking through the Acting Publicity Secretary, Darlington Nwauju, expressed alarm at the style of harming businesses as an act of regulation.

The statement drew attention of the State Government and its agents to the provisions of Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which the party said allows for freedom to live and move freely in Rivers State. “Not even the President is empowered under our constitution to seal up people’s legitimate businesses for whatever reasons.

“Even if a business premises is reasonably suspected to be one that is used for illegitimate purposes, only a Court of law can pronounce the company or individual guilty. Nobody under the principle of fair hearing can one be a judge in his own matter (nemo judex in causa sua),” Nwauju said.

Nwauju recalled what it called the illegal demolition of Prudent Hotel, Alode and Etemeteh Hotel, Onne in Eleme LGA in 2020 for allegedly flouting COVID-19 lockdown directives.

The party observed that the outgoing governor of Rivers State is a senior lawyer and life bencher, and that he should therefore, guide his agents to respect the law.

“The APC in Rivers State however, wish to assure the business community, local and foreign investors, that an APC administration in Rivers State shall encourage entrepreneurship, and create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

“We urge the business community and investors in Rivers State not to be discouraged but rather pray and wait for a business-friendly regime from our gubernatorial candidate, Pastor Tonye Cole, who understands the body language of businesses, locally and internationally,” he said.

Read also: Wike boasts: We’ve collapsed other parties in Rivers into PDP

But Wike seems to justify the spate of clampdowns in the state capital, saying he will not tolerate any act of criminality intended to destabilise the state.

He condemned those going to social media to accuse his administration of clamping down on their businesses, stressing that his administration has invested hugely in achieving the prevailing peace, and nothing would be tolerated in returning the State to the dark days of insecurity.

Governor Wike spoke at the flag-off of the 12th flyover at the Mgbuoba, Ozuoba -Ada George Road in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, which was performed by Jerry Gana on Friday, August 19, 2022, same day the businesses of perceived opponents were shut down.

It was gathered that the attacks were on business owners and destruction of properties at the popular Building Materials Market at the Kala area of Obio/Akpor LGA by men of the Taskforce set up by the Rivers State Government.

There was also the sealing up of three business premises (Priscy’s Lounge, Preray Hotel & Mega Tools Ltd.) within the Port Harcourt City LGA, and subsequent arrest of about 19 customers whose only crime was patronizing these businesses by agents of the Rivers State Government, is to say the least barbaric.

Reacting later in the day, Gov Wike said;

“Now, let me tell anyone who cares to listen, whether you’re in PDP, APC, you’re in SDP, you’re in Accord or any other party, if I catch you trying to breach the security in this state, you’ll go in for it.

“I will not allow anybody to destabilise this state. We have suffered insecurity and God has helped us together with security agencies to maintain peace. For me, whether it is true or not, I must make sure that I take action,” said.

Governor Wike further said, sadly most people do not take the warning issued in his last state broadcast seriously. According to him, he had warned that any hotel or event centre where criminals, cultists are allowed to gather to plot the breach of peace would be demolished.

“So, if you know they’re using your hotel, or they’re using your drinking joint as where they’ll be holding meetings, think twice now.

“There is no amount of propaganda, if you like go to social media that they’re clamping down on you, that’s your business. I will not allow anybody to destabilise this state, because we have suffered insecurity and we have spent money.

“You can’t begin to arrange for cultists to meet in your event centres, or in your hotels. Pray that I don’t have any hint about that, if I do, I will bring down your hotel, I will bring down the event centre and I will arrest those people found there and I will prosecute them, heaven would not fall.”