By Okafor Ofiebor
Half-naked and angry elderly Ogoni women on Tuesday stormed Bori town, the headquarters of Khana Local Government area to protest the continued isolation of the manager of the demolished Prodest Hotel, Dr. Bariledum Azoroh by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
The hotel manager is currently being quarantined in one of the Isolation centres in Port Harcourt after being alleged to have tested positive for Coronavirus.
The women issued a 24-hour ultimatum to the Rivers State Government to set free the manager of the demolished Prodest Hotel, Azoroh or they would protest totally naked.
The half-naked women, who marched across the streets of Zakpo in Bori, Khana local government of River State threatened that if Azoroh (who also an Ogoni) was not released within 24 hours, that is, May 27, they would protest naked on the streets of Bori, which was not only an abomination, but a curse in Africa tradition and culture.
The angry women alleged that Azoroh, who was recently declared to have contracted COVID-19 by the state government had been moved from Elekahia Isolation centre to Eleme Quarantine centre among other COVID-19 patients.
The State Government, through Paulinus Nsirim, the Commissioner for Information and Communications had on Sunday, May 23, announced that the state had recorded 27 new positive Coronavirus cases, among whom was the Manager of Prodest Hotel, Eleme.
Nsirim said this latest development validated the state government’s proactive approach towards the fight against COVID-19.
He recalled that Prodest Hotel was demolished two weeks ago because the owners violated Executive Order 7 which banned the operation of hotels.
“The COVID-19 Taskforce members from the Local Government who went to enforce the Executive Order were brutalized and dehumanised leading to the death of one of them,” Nsirim stated.
Making public the status of Azoroh by the state government has attracted condemnation from Rivers citizens.
For instance, a lawyer and former Media Aide to Governor Nyesom Wike, St Franklyn Oraye, faulted and queried the Rivers State Government’s declaration that Azoroh was COVID-19 positive, saying it was an abuse of the privacy of the manager.
Oraye questioned: “When was he tested? Why is the result being published almost two weeks after the incident? Is it not possible that he got infected after the incident? For now let’s not bother about how he was infected. Who are the other infected persons?
“If it’s not political mischief, can we have a list of all tested persons and their results, especially those who work or worked for government? That should be the only justification for releasing the test result of one patient.”
Also, human rights activist and Executive Director, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC), Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, rejected the report that Azoroh tested positive for COVID-19 and called for a retest.
“We therefore call for a re-test of the Prodest Hotel manager by an independent medical team in the presence of the media and his samples sent to multiple laboratories outside Rivers State for results comparison. We further call on NCDC to start contact tracing of all those who went to Prodest hotel for demolition on May 10, including the Police officers that arrested him, send them all to the Isolation Centre and their identities revealed after COVID-19 tests as that of Dr. Azoroh was done.
“While his organization believes that anyone can test positive to COVID-19, we are particularly skeptical about the results of Prodest Hotel Manager who is being persecuted, kept in poor and dehumanizing conditions, poorly fed, denied access to good medical care, his family, etc. since May 10 till date.
“We also call on the Rivers State Government to ensure the protection of the rights of Prodest Hotel Manager, guarantee his safety and those of others in its custody arrested and detained over alleged violations of COVID-19 Executive Orders in line with provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) and other regional and international human rights instruments ratified by Nigeria and also applicable in Rivers State,” the organization demanded.
Fyneface explained that “our rejection of Dr. Azoroh’s COVID-19 status became necessary because it is evident that from the beginning of the alleged violation of Executive Order Six till date, the fate of the hotel Manager had depended on the whims and caprices of the Rivers State Government, including the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and government report that he is COVID-19 positive.”
Besides, Fyneface pointed out that from inception to date, the exercises of both executive and judicial powers over the hotel, its management and staff for alleged violations had remained at the mercy of the state government without an opportunity for open trial.
The Organization noted that Azoroh had alleged the violations of his constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights, lack of transparency in the trial process, absence of fair-hearing, denial of access to charge sheets and record of proceedings as well as legal representation on May 18 as he was convicted in the absence of his lawyer who was not granted movement permit to the court to defend his client during the total lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas.