Traditional rulers in Rivers State have sought the intervention of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to reverse the order by the Inspector General of Police to set up a Joint Technical Task Force on the movement of livestock, agricultural products, goods and services.
The monarchs, who spoke while briefing newsmen on Saturday, expressed fear that the creation of such a task force without consulting the state government was a threat to the health of the people of the state.
Chairman of the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, His Majesty, King Dandeson Douglas Jaja, explained that there was no guarantee that the trucks that would convey livestock to the state would not carry passengers with unknown identities and health status.
Jaja, who is the Amanyanabo of Opobo Kingdom, urged the President to intervene in the matter, recalling that even the National Assembly had expressed concern over inter-state movement of trucks, which also conveyed passengers into other states.
Jaja added that state governors, who observed this anomaly, took appropriate measures to protect their states from the importation and exportation of COVID-19 patients.
He said, “We, the traditional rulers in Rivers State, are alarmed by the unfortunate action of the Inspector General of Police by setting up the Joint Technical Task Force on the movement of agricultural products, livestock, machinery, goods and services at the instance of the Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development, Defence, Environment as well as various security agencies, to ensure free and unhindered movement of food, livestock, etc.
“We recall that the National Assembly last week expressed deep concern on inter-state movement of trucks, livestock conveying other passengers into other states. Following this, various state governors acted promptly and took measures to protect their states from the importation and exportation of COVID-19 patients or vectors.
“We prayerfully request His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, to intervene and reverse this order of the IGP. Even if it is a national policy, it should not begin with Rivers State, as we are not undernourished state in Nigeria.
“We feel deeply concerned as the entire episode is hasty and appears to be terminally targeted at our people. We seek Mr President’s intervention to lift the threat and save the lives of our people as COVID-19 pandemic does not discriminate against gender, class, ethnic group, creed or social status.”
The monarch stressed that even if the intention of such task force was to ensure the movement of food, livestock and agricultural equipment, the process could also encourage the influx of bandits, terrorists and COVID-19 infected persons to endanger the lives of Rivers people.
Jaja added, “We are informed that in spite of the presidential order restricting inter-state movement of trucks and other vehicles other than those on essential services, the IGP has unilaterally lifted the ban and proceeded to set up the Joint Technical Task Force on the movement of agricultural products, livestock, goods and services, sequel to a presumed directive of the Federal Ministries of Agriculture, Defence, security agencies to provide unhindered movement of food, livestock, agricultural input without passengers.”