…Those arrested will have their day in court and due process will be followed– Governor Wike
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
The Rivers State Government has been advised not to go ahead with the plan to auction or demolishing property of violators of Covid-19 executive of orders of the State.
Henry Ekine, a human rights Lawyer and National Publicity Secretary of the Committee for Defense of Human Rights said the seizure of properties of citizens (cars and cattle) and planned auctioning by the Rivers State Government is unconventional, unlawful and illegal.
“The Governor cannot be accuser and Judge at the same time. Only the Courts can pronounce a citizen guilty and pronounce a punishment of forfeiture. Then the Governor can seek to enforce the judgment by auctioning.
“The Governor cannot be the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. He cannot usurp legislative and judicial functions.”
Another popular Port Harcourt based lawyer, Angus Chukwuka, also pointed out that the Rivers State Government cannot be a prosecutor and a judge in its own Court.
“It is procedurally faulty and breach of the rights offenders to try people without their lawyers available to defend them”.
“No matter the good intentions of the Government to protect lives and properties, Governor Wike is a Lawyer, he knows the fundamental rights of the people. For instance, will he now kill those who have contracted the Coronavirus because he fighting the pandemic?”
He added that Wike cannot under the law impound people’s vehicles, cows or demolish people’s houses and hotels or sell them as auction because they violated the lockdown order, stating that even in the times of war the rights individuals are respected.
However, the Governor had in his broadcast on Friday night made it clear that while the state government will not shirk in its duty to the people, it will do so according to the rule of law.
Wike vowed that government will unleash the full and severe weight of the law against any person or body of persons, who attempt to put themselves and other innocent people at the risk of spreading this disease in Rivers State.
He said: “While we appreciate the intervention and plea of clemency from well-meaning Rivers citizens, it is our position not to condone any sentiments on this matter because of the seriousness of the situation.
“What we can assure everyone is that all those arrested for violating the relevant Executive Orders would certainly have their day in court and due process would be the hallmark of any punishment that they may suffer if duly convicted as prescribed by our ordinary laws.
“Accordingly, the vehicles, whose owners have been convicted and the ownership thereof already forfeited to the State, will duly be auctioned by the Deputy Sheriff of the State High Court.”