Twenty-two ExxonMobil workers arrested on the orders of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, have been set free.
A report by The Nation newspaper quoted the Commissioner of Justice in Rivers state, Zaccheus Adangor, as saying that the oil workers were released on Sunday.
The government did not press charges against the oil workers whom they had accused of entering Rivers State in violation of a lockdown order signed into law by Mr Wike to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.
The workers were arrested by the police on April 16 at a border town between Rivers and Akwa Ibom State. They were kept at the coronavirus screening centre at the Elekaya Stadium, Port Harcourt.
“As a responsive government, we have quarantined them in line with the relevant health protocols and they will be charged to court,” Governor Wike had said while briefing reporters on the arrest.
“Even though security agencies advised that they be allowed to go back to Akwa Ibom State, I insisted that the law must take its course,” he said. “This is because nobody is above the law.”
Continuing, the governor said, “We are doing what we can within available resources to fight coronavirus. You can fly, but as you fly and land, don’t enter our territory.
“We will fight this matter legally. ExxonMobil does not operate in Rivers State. That they have a point at the Onne seaport does not mean that they operate in Rivers State.
“People in Abuja are not happy. They want Rivers State to be infected. They want to kill Rivers people and I will not allow it. I was elected to protect Rivers people. Rivers State is not a pariah State.
“People selling Akara are being charged to court in Lagos. But they want us to allow oil companies to flout the law. I am a boy to Rivers people, not to anybody outside Rivers State.”
An oil workers association in Nigeria, PENGASSAN, had said that the workers did not break any law and that Governor Wike was using COVID-19 as a “tool” for “muscle-flexing”.
The arrest of the ExxonMobil workers came a few days after two Caverton Helicopters pilots and their ten passengers were arrested, charged to court, and remanded in Port Harcourt prison for allegedly violating the lockdown order in Rivers State.
Amidst the disagreement, the police authorities Friday redeployed the commissioner of police in Rivers State.
Mustapha Dandaura was redeployed from Rivers to Abuja to serve as the provost, Force Headquarters, according to a statement issued on Friday by the spokesperson of the force headquarters, Frank Mba.
A new commissioner of police, Joseph Mukan, was posted to River State.
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