AGENCIES | BBC | The authorities in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern Rivers state have demolished two hotels over an alleged breach of lockdown rules intended to contain the spread of coronavirus.
State Governor Nyesom Wike, who supervised the tearing down of Edemete Hotel and Prodest Home on Sunday, said the operators had flouted an order that hotels should be closed.
He said that people who had tested positive for the virus had been found in hotels across the state. But he did not say if anyone who had Covid-19 had been staying in either of the demolished hotels.
‘We refused to pay bribe’
The managers of both businesses have been arrested, but the owner of Prodest Home has denied that his hotel was open.
“The hotel was not operating and 70% of the staff had been sent away,” Gogorobari Promise Needam told the BBC.
“There were only three people on ground.
“[Officials] came in and were asking for a bribe, they said they would let us operate if we gave them money but we said we were not operational so had no money to give,” he said.
The Rivers state government denies the accusation.
The state currently has 15 active cases of the virus and has recorded two deaths.
A lockdown was imposed on the state capital, Port Harcourt, last Thursday.
Nigeria has more than 4,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus overall, with the commercial capital, Lagos, at the epicentre. But a lockdown that was imposed there, and in some other states, at the end of March has been partially eased.
Legal experts have told the BBC that the actions of the Rivers state governor could be challenged in court.
But the state government says Mr Wike signed an executive order granting him the power to enforce the lockdown.
The state has been criticised for its strict lockdown rules, which ordered markets and places selling food to shut down.
Doctors, pharmacists and other essential workers have also reported that they have been harassed and in some cases arrested for breaching the lockdown.
The authorities have erected barriers on the main highway on its eastern border to enforce a ban on interstate travel, accusing security personnel of smuggling in people under the cover of darkness.
Officials are also planning to auction vehicles seized from those who violated the lockdown.
Only those who receive a special pass, personally issued by the governor, are allowed to move.