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Passengers, drivers trapped at Rivers borders and federal roads into the state

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Passengers and drivers are having tough times entering Rivers State through its borders following the lockdown directive by Governor Nyesom Wike.

Wike, in one of his numerous pronouncements to curtail the spread of the deadly virus, directed the closure of all borders leading to the state and set up a Taskforce comprising all security outfits in the state to monitor compliance.

It was, however, gathered that most people living in Port Harcourt were outside their domains when the directive was given, were stranded at the borders to the state.

Others, who were on important missions to the capital city especially health-related referrals were said to be adopting various means to gain entrance to the state.

It was gathered that following the directive, the task force blocked all the entry points to stop people from either leaving the state or coming into Rivers.

A resident of Port Harcourt, who identified himself simply as Williams, said his neighbour was one of the persons trapped at Obigbo, the border community between Rivers and Abia State.

He said: “My neighbour travelled to Aba in Abia State to buy some goods.

“On getting to Obigbo, the security operatives there didn’t let their vehicle in.

” The driver asked them to alight at the border. He made a u-turn and went back to Aba.

“But my neighbour and others in the vehicle had to trek many distances to Oil Mill, where they bordered a vehicle to Port Harcourt.

“My neighbour said the border was chaotic. Mosts vehicles especially the ones conveying passengers were not allowed into the state.

“The worst hit were private vehicles driven by their owners. They were stopped at the border”.

Also Kehinde, a driver that conveys newspapers from Port Harcourt to other neighboring states such as Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and other eastern states, was trapped on Friday morning when the enforcement of the order started in the state.

He said: “I got to Mbiama, a border community between Rivers and Bayelsa at about 1am.

“The taskforce asked me to park my vehicle. I went to talk to one of the security operatives, a policeman, who later allowed me to pass the border.

“I delivered all the papers but on my way back to Rivers State, Mbiama was blocked. It was almost impassable.

“I saw many vehicles trying to enter the state but they were not allowed entrance. People were stranded especially those living in Port Harcourt. They didn’t know where to go.

“I approached the security agencies, but they would not listen to me.

“I stayed there for over five hours begging them to allow me into the state.

“I explained to them to that I was on an essential duty to deliver newspapers to other states from our printing press in Port Harcourt. I showed them my branded vehicle but they were still adamant.

“It was a painful experience. I was the only one in the vehicle. I was not carrying other passengers. They told me they could only allow trucks conveying materials, food items and other essential products to the state.

“I tried to explain to them that newspapers are also essential products and persons involved in their distribution were on essential services, but they were still adamant. I remained there and had to call my management in Port Harcourt to prevail on their heads to allow me into the state.

“But they could no longer keep me there when I saw them giving some private vehicles access into the state.

“I challenged them and they reluctantly allowed me into the state. It was terrible. I saw some people alighting from their vehicles and trekking kilometers in search of other commercial vehicles”.

Also a resident Davina Francis, said she resorted to taking painkillers after she was made to trek many kilometers in search of a commercial bus following the refusal of the taskforce to allow their bus coming from Calabar, Cross Rivers State, to gain access into Rivers.

She said: “I was coming from Calabar on Thursday and I was hoping to get into Rivers State before 6pm when the announcement by Governor Wike would be effective. Unfortunately our bus got in few minutes past 6pm but not up to 6:30pm.

“At that time, the entrance into Rivers State was already filled with Police and soldiers, who were not letting any bus come in and I couldn’t afford to go back. I and and some passengers, in fact most people had to come down, and walk through a back road closed to a river. Buses couldn’t pass there. So, we trekked for about an hour plus into in Rivers State, before we could see a bus going to our destination”.

While commending the governor for his efforts in curtailing the spread of the virus, most passengers appealed to him to seek other ways instead of closing borders. They urged him to deploy test kits to all the borders to detect potential cases and isolate them.

Wike Wednesday announced total lockdown of the state as part of drastic measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic saying that air, sea and land routes into the state would be shut down to traffic beginning from 6am on Thursday.

He said that such measure became necessary in view of recent developments.

“With effect from 6pm on Thursday, March 26, 2020 , the Port-Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa will not be open to air traffic.

“While we may not have the right to stop flights from entering Port Harcourt, we cannot allow anybody coming from the airport to enter our state. We are confident that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other federal agencies will cooperate with us.

“All Land and Sea Borders will be closed. Vehicular movements in an out of the state have been banned. In essence no vehicle will leave Rivers State for any other state and no vehicle will be allowed to enter the state.

“Let me reiterate that the situation we are facing requires drastic measures because coronavirus has ravaged many countries. Security Agencies have been empowered to strictly enforce this directive. There will be no room for sacred cows because the virus is no respecter of persons.

“May I once again call for the support and understanding of everyone living and doing business in Rivers State to help the relevant Government Agencies implement these measures to check the spread of coronavirus to the state.

“At this time in our national life, we must shun primordial sentiments and face the reality on ground. I am confident that God being on our side , the temporary hardship we are facing today will come to an end very soon.”

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