By NWOGHA NDUBUISI ANDY, Abakaliki
Ebonyi State Governor,Engr. David Umahi has pardoned Sun Newspaper Correspondence in the state,Mr. Chijioke Agwu who was arrested yesterday on alleged false publication.
The Sun reporter based in Ebonyi State was arrested and released on Saturday April 18, 2020 following the allegation by the Governor that he falsified report on Lassa Fever allegedly wrecking havoc in the state in the newspaper publication on Friday April 17, this year.
It was gathered that some journalists had suffered the same fate in the state due to alleged falsification of reports and consequently, some were suspended from entering the state Government functions regarding the kind of stories spread through their media organizations.
It would be recalled that the Sun Newspaper Correspondent was arrested following the directive of the state Governor during the security meeting at New Governor’s Office at Centenary City in the state.
Also recall that Governor Umahi has restated that the ban on false information is still in force in Ebonyi State despite the pardon granted to the Sun reporter, Chijioke Agwu.
His words: “This afternoon, we noted that The Sun reporter, Chijioke Agwu did a very terrible false report and allegation of people dying in droves as a result of Lassa Fever in Ebonyi State. I am not aware of anybody dying of Lassa Fever in the last one week in the state. We have always had 85 cases of which many of them have gone home and I don’t know if we have up to five people at the centre and most of these people are not only from Ebonyi State.
“We receive patients from the entire South-east, North-central and even South-South because we have the facilities built by the state government to detect Lassa fever and treat them. So, to have released such weighty publication to the public is a disservice to the state and we have invoked the section 23 sub-section 2 of COVID19 2020 Law of Ebonyi State to the effect that I as the Chief Security officer, the enforcer of the law have ordered for his arrest and prosecution and if found guilty, the law shall take its cause”.
But according to the statement issued by Special Assistant to the State Governor, Hon. Francis Nwaze, stated, as at 9:00 pm on the same Saturday, the number 29 and 30 in this publication, after pleas by several media organizations, unions, and leaders, the governor has granted pardon to the Sun reporter with a warning to all media practitioners in the state to desist from false and unverified publications.
The Governor further tightened up the boundaries of the state to secure the lives and property of Ebonyians against the COVID-19 pandemic scourge after an emergency security council meeting on 18th April 2020, addressed the press as follows:
“We have agreed to lockdown the entire state from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am with effect from today; there will be no movements, no night activities. We have directed the public to take photographs of anybody seen taking a bribe to allow foreigners to enter the state at the boundaries, be specific on who took the bribe, where, when and send the same to any of the members of the COVID-19 Committee for our immediate action.
“Any further leakage of any of the boundaries will attract the suspension of the Chairman and the Councillors of the LGA and ward respectively while the Coordinators, Management Committee members, EAs, STAs, TAs and Liaison officers will be removed. It is a call for everybody that has a responsibility bestowed on him or her to stand and know that we are in a time of war. We are making arrangements to deploy CCTV to monitor what is happening in the boundaries, both day and night. We have agreed to have 7 blockages at each boundary of the state. The first will be the Army; the second – Police; third – other service chiefs; fourth – the Neighbourhood watch; fifth – Royal Highnesses and Town Union Presidents; Sixth – Christian Association of Nigeria while the seventh will be the Local Government Chairmen and Coordinators.
“The palliative production of Rice, Tomatoes, Salt, Tomatoes, vegetable oil, Crayfish, etc is ongoing and it will all come up in a package. We are producing 400,000 of 5kg Rice and we have also received 4 trucks of Rice and 1 truck of Groundnut Oil from the federal government. We will put everything together and the time to share the palliatives will come. Every Rice or other food items and condiments confiscated now or before will be given to the palliative committee for sharing to the public.
“We are doing a collection of names for the cash transfer of the Federal government and we have directed that it will be shared on a non-partisan basis. That the voters register should be used and we expect the compilation of these names to be available by next week. These are the names we are going to use and distribute our palliatives and the palliatives will be distributed in all the polling units, the same day and at the same time.The distribution of these palliatives will be strictly for the poor masses and not for the party. We have directed the distribution of 162,000 pieces of face masks. If you must come out of your house within the allowable time, you must wear a face mask, it is a must.
“Every local government chairman will go home with 10,000 face masks to distribute at markets, rice mills, health institutions and people that are into essential services. We have also paid for the production of another 600,000 face masks which will be distributed from house to house when it is ready as they are all being made in Ebonyi State. We acknowledge the donations from people towards this COVID 19 fight. We are pleading with our stakeholders that this is the time to show love for our state. Everybody with financial stability should donate something, the politicians, businessmen, companies, and stakeholders, those who will struggle for 2023 political positions. This is the time to be a good citizen and during the campaign, we will bring forth these donations. You have to show love to your people. For those people sending me account numbers to send money to them, the only help I give to them is to block their lines. I am the governor of everybody in the state. How many people can I help by going to the bank to pay money into their accounts? I am planning to help as many people as possible, collectively.
“There is a CBN program on Rice and Cassava, we are collecting the names of 2000 people per LGA who have 5 haters of land for cassava or 5 hectares of land for Rice. Submit your names very quickly through the LGA Chairmen, we are sending it to CBN and within the month of May, they will come and give you money to do your Agriculture. It is no longer the state, it is now direct with CBN and the price of fertilizer has been brought down to 5000 naira.Let us leverage on this and be a major that we have been in Cassava and Rice production.
“It is a show of ingratitude for people to show dissatisfaction with the ban of Motorcycles in the state. We are almost the only state that is not completely locked down in the country.
“However, we have exempted health workers and everybody that is involved in the fight of this COVID-19 but you must carry a pass – Security officers, Media and others involved in essential services.
“The clustering of people in a place is still banned. The opening of beer parlor is banned. The ban on Motorcycles, not only Okada is still fully in force. If we get you, the motorcycle will be confiscated and you will be tried according to 2020 Ebonyi COVID-19 Law. We have directed today for aggressive testing of at least 10 persons per ward. The chairmen, coordinators, royal highness and our people must identify the homes to be tested before the next 5 days. This assignment must be completed within 2 weeks.
‘So, within the next two weeks, we are going to test 2000 people in Ebonyi State. We have resolved to be having daily briefing of the press and public in the situation room. The governor of the state will be briefing on Wednesdays after the Security Council meeting. The public will be able to call us to ask questions and then we will be able to attend to it after our briefing. The deputy governor will be briefing the public on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Sundays. The Security Chiefs will brief on Thursdays. The 13 LGA Chairmen will brief on Fridays while the Speaker will brief on Saturdays on Palliatives.”
He thanked Ebonyians whom he said, have expressed satisfaction on what his administration is doing even though the Government machineries are not God and neither infallible too, emphasized on the essence of the phone in programme which according to him, is to detect faults so that all involved foul plays could be corrected as mistakes are inevitable; stressing that everybody should recognize COVID-19 pandemic is a reality.
He also asked Ebonyians to observe all the policies given to them by the National Centre for Disease Control and also the directives from the State Government, reminding all citizens to hold with a high esteem the COVID-19 slogan which states, while “we prepare for the worst and we also prepare for the best.”