The Rivers State Government says it will prosecute 22 staff of American oil giant, ExxonMobil who entered the state on Thursday, in violation of the lockdown on the state’s border.
The governor’s threat came barely few days after the release of two pilots of Caverton Helicopter and 10 passengers for similar offence.
Governor Nyesom Wike, who made the avowal on Friday, said the state was prepared to test the laws on its ability to shut its borders and protect the lives of its people in view of the widespread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to newsmen at the Government House Port Harcourt, Wike said the 22 staff would be taken to court and made to face the law, just as he did to two pilots and passengers of Caverton Helicopter.
He said, “ExxonMobil brought in 22 persons without telling us so that they can be quarantined and tested. I will fight this on my own; the security agencies have orders from Abuja (not to be involved), but we will go to court.”
“We (Rivers) and ExxonMobil, we will test the law; the law must be tested. We will do same thing to ExxonMobil as we did to Caverton Helicopter. They will not be treated differently, just because they are a foreign company and the other a Nigerian company.”
“These people don’t want to respect the law, just because they are ExxonMobil, but this will expose those in Abuja because nobody can use Rivers as you. They should not kill Rivers people because they hate Wike,” the governor said.
He flayed persons and unions who have taken up the state on the face-off with the indigenous air shuttle company, as well as threat by various unions to go on strike over the incident, insisting “law is not practiced on the pages of newspapers, but in court.”
He alluded to an alleged conspiracy to infect and kill people of the state with the pandemic, adding, “People in Abuja are not happy (because of the law infection rate in Rivers state). They are not happy that there are no reports of new cases every day.”
The management of the oil giant said, “We are working with Rivers state government to resolve a transportation misunderstanding.”
“As always, wherever we operate, we comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulation,” an email from Oge Udeagha, ExxonMobil Manager, Media and Communication stated.
Meanwhile, the governor revealed that management of Caverton has apologised, and also promised never to violate the state’s laws again.
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He said the company’s apology was first conveyed in a Whatsapp message from the Managing Director of the company, who is currently in the United States of America, before he got a formal letter of apology and undertaking that similar incidents would not be repeated by the company.”
Also, Governor WIke has warned companies operating in the state to stand up to be counted by supporting the state in the drive to prevent the spread in the state, warning that the state government would not accept pittance in the name of support.
He particularly warned companies and individuals with business interests in the state to show the same commitment to the state as they have shown in supporting the Federal Government.
He said, “Those companies that operate in the state and have not supported us will hear from us. If you do not support us you will hear from us. You cannot go to support other states and give pittance to there you are making the money from. There should be no ‘widow’s mite’.”