Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has given marching orders to local government chairmen to stop all artisanal refining of crude oil in the state.
The governor, who also deplored the insubordination of identified First Class chiefs in the state that do not attend state functions, threatened to dethrone such traditional rulers.
The governor’s order and threat were made in his New Year message to the people of the state.
The governor directed the Chairmen of councils, particularly Port Harcourt to go after all the illegal crude oil refining sites and shut them down with immediate effect.
He also directed all council Chairmen and community leaders to locate, identify and report to his office all those behind all illegal bunkering and crude oil refining sites in their localities for prosecution.
“As a State Government, we have drawn the attention of the Federal Government to this problem and requested for its intervention to stop the activities of illegal bunkering and artisanal crude oil refiners, which have been identified as the main sources of the soot pandemic.
“Unfortunately, the Federal Government has remained inexplicably silent over our request and even complicit to a large extent with the security agencies actively aiding, encouraging and protecting the artisanal refiners to continue with their harmful activities unabated,” he said.
Wike said government’s appeal to persons engaged in this illegal business to consider its negative effects on the economy, environment, public safety and public health and disengage from it had not succeeded.
The governor reminded all government recognized traditional rulers that they are, at all times, subject to the authority and directives of the State Government and not to other allegiances, culture or otherwise.
“Therefore, the consistent absence of some first class traditional rulers, especially the Amayanabo of Okrika, the Amayanabo of Ogu, the Amayanabo of Kalabari and the Gbenemene Nyo-Khana from participating in State functions is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.
“Should they therefore continue to absent themselves from State functions or in the regular meetings and activities of the State Traditional Rulers Council, we would have no option than to direct their immediate replacement.”
The governor commended the security agencies for working round the clock to make and keep the State peaceful, safe and secure throughout 2021. And to make the State safer, he said government will from the second week of January 2022 commence demolition of all shanties and makeshift structures in identified crime hotspots in Port Harcourt, particularly the Illabuchi areas of Diobu.
He warned that all those attempting to resume illegal trading activities at the closed Oginigba slaughter have one week to vacate or be arrested and charged to court.
Wike stated that government will take over most vacant plots or uncompleted buildings in the Old and New Government Reservation Areas (GRA) and some other parts of Port Harcourt city and Obio/Akpor councils that have been hijacked and inhabited by criminal elements.
The governor said government shall recover and restore all landfilled or reclaimed wetlands and demolish all structures erected on natural water channels spanning from the Eastern bypass areas up to Abana and Eleme streets in Old GRA as part of measures to check perennial flooding challenge in parts of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor councils. Adding that only those with genuine government permits and allocation papers will be duly compensated.
Governor Wike announced the immediate ban on activities of cart pushers who have become notorious for indiscriminate scavenging of manhole covers and directed law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute anyone who attempts to violate this ban.
He further ban the disposal of refuse on the streets or open spaces in both the Old and New GRAs of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor councils; posting of posters, fliers, pictures, artworks, placards or inscriptions on or under on flyovers, bridges, concrete walls and the safety barricades along the roads. Adding that government will establish environmental marshals to enforce compliance with State sanitation laws.
The governor directed the Chairmen of Port Harcourt, Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor, and Oyigbo councils to within three weeks from 1st January, impound and or remove any trailer and articulated vehicle packed on the streets beyond 48 hours in their respective administrative jurisdictions.
Concerned about the operations and socially harmful activities of nightclubs within residential areas of the State, the governor has placed an immediate ban on all nightclub activities, including night-time trading and street prostitution along Abacha road and surrounding streets in Port Harcourt to stop the harmful effect of these depraved activities on the moral development of children and society at large.
“No responsible government should continue to tolerate the open display and solicitation of sexual services, drug abuse and public intoxication that takes place along the streets and public areas abutting some of these nightclubs, lounges and bars by the youths, some, as young as under 14 years.”
The governor expressed sympathy to the victims of the recent fire incidents in the State, especially those who lost loved ones and valuable property. He said government will continue to strengthen the State Fire Service and urged members of the public also take responsibility to prevent or avoid some of these fire incidents from happening.
He also expressed concern over the poor compliance with the existing Covid-19 protocols by citizens and the effect on the transmission of the disease in the State. He enjoined all residents to make themselves available for testing and vaccination whether it is for your first, second or booster jab.