Rivers State is one of the States with high population density in Nigeria, certainly the highest in the whole of South South and South East Regions of the Country. It is the Headquarters of Oil & Gas operations and activities in Nigeria.
Undoubtedly, this explains why even in this Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant lockdown, one would notice that the Federal Government still grants approval for special flight operations in and out the State to air lift oil and gas sector workers.
Port Harcourt, the capital city also serves as alternate economic centre for neighboring States and cities like Yenagoa (Bayelsa State), Owerri (Imo State) and Aba (Abia State).
So far, Rivers State has also recorded seven (7) confirmed cases of coronavirus disease. This number has the capacity of infecting over a thousand other persons in a period of ten days going by the spread pattern of the disease as announced by the World Health Organization (WHO). Also, like in other States, including Lagos, Ogun and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Rivers State now has carriers of the disease who contracted it through community spread.
Before proceeding to the next phase of this piece, I want to make it clear that there are near-reality conspiracy theories circulating in Rivers State.
Some say that the relevant authorities responsible for setting up the test centre are responding to what they referred to as “unfriendly reactions” of the Rivers State Governor at the initial stage of the outbreak in Nigeria, a period when every Governor was grappling between panic and strategy in addressing the novel virus.
Other say that the Rivers State Government has not put down any facilities to host the test Centre. There are also those who try bluntly to give political party coloration to this concern.
Listening to the Governor of Rivers State, Barr. Ezenwo Nyesom Wike speak during his briefing on the state of Covid-19 in Rivers State on 01/05/2020 and the Governor’s painstaking efforts to give life to one of the conspiracy theories, ie. that the Federal Government Agencies want Rivers people “to suffer”, it has become imperative to call on the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for clarifications. It is important to highlight also that there are evidence of opposition States across the regions that have Test Centres.
This brings us to the big question: why does Rivers State not have a Test Centre? In the past two weeks Rivers State residents have been overtly worried and continuously questioned why there are no test centres in the State.
Increasingly, residents in Rivers State are being made to believe that those responsible for establishing the test centres are politicking with their health and wellbeing.
This is not a healthy notion to be allowed to fester.
The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is an Institution of the Government of the Federation responsible for establishing Coronavirus Test Centre.
The NCDC is the only custodian of WHO Protocol for that purpose in Nigeria. Having not heard from NCDC, I am reluctant to offer any positive comment or answer which might be construed as an indictment, either to NCDC or the Rivers State Government.
This is not a brief for either side, but for the records and benefit of doubt, the NCDC must come clean, open and explain to Rivers State residents why the State has no single Test Centre, even where States with less population have. Rivers State needs Test Centres now; and much more than that, an explanation from NCDC why the State has no Test Centre yet.
Clear the Doubts NOW !
Long Live Rivers State. Long Live Nigeria.
Lawyer & Public Policy Analyst
Writing from Port Harcourt.