Tuesday, May 26, 2020 5:26 pm
..Vow to go naked in 24 hours if the state government refused to release Dr Azoroh
…Human rights groups describe open disclosure of Dr. Azoroh’s health status as unethical and against Covid-19 protocol
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Topless, angry elderly Ogoni women on Tuesday stormed Bori town the headquarters of Khana Local Government area topless as they issued 24 hour ultimatum to the Rivers State Government to release the Manager of the demolished Prodest Hotel, Dr. Bariledum Azoroh, currently being quarantined in one of the Isolation centres in Port Harcourt.
The women, who marched across the streets of Zakpo in Bori town threatened that if Azoroh (who also an Ogoni) is not released within 24 hours, that is, tomorrow, Wednesday, May 27, they will go completely naked in the streets of Bori, a development which considered an abomination and a curse in African tradition and culture.
The angry women alleged Dr. Azoroh, who was recently declared to have contracted Covid-19 by the State government has been moved been moved from Elekahia Isolation centre to Eleme Quarantine centre amidst other COVID 19 patients.
The State Government through Paulinus Nsirim, the Commissioner for Information and Communications had on Sunday, May 23, announced that the state has recorded 27 new positive coronavirus cases among whom was the Manager of Prodest Hotel, Eleme.
Nsirim said the development validated the State Government’s proactive approach towards the fight against COVID-19.
He recalled that Prodest Hotel was demolished two weeks ago because the owners violated Executive Order 7 which banned the operation of hotels.
“The COVID-19 Taskforce members from the Local Government who went to enforce the Executive Order were brutalized and dehumanised leading to the death of one of them,” Nsirim stated.
But some lawyers and public commentators in Rivers had condemned the state government for revealing the Covid-19 status of the hotel manager while keeping the identity of other suspects private.
For instance, a lawyer and former media aide to Governor Nyesom Wike, St Franklyn Oraye described the revelation that Azoroh is Covid 19 positive as abuse of privacy of the hotel manager by the hotel manager. He also raised some query about the claims.
Oraye questioned: “When was he tested? Why is the result being published almost two weeks after the incident? Is it not possible that he got infected after the incident? For now let’s not bother about how he was infected. Who are the other infected persons?
“If it’s not political mischief can we have a list of all tested persons and their results, especially those who work or worked for government? That should be the only justification for releasing the test result of one patient.”
Also, a human rights activist and Executive Director, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC), Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, rejected the report that Azoroh tested Covid-19 positive and called for a retest.
“We therefore call for a re-test of the Prodest Hotel manager by an independent medical team in the presence of the media and his samples sent to multiple laboratories outside Rivers State for results comparison. We further call on NCDC to start contact tracing of all those who went to Prodest hotel for demolition on May 10, including the Police Officers that arrested him, send them all to the Isolation Centre and their identities revealed after COVID-19 tests as that of Dr. Azoroh was done.
He said while his organization believes that anyone can test positive to COVID-19, it is particularly skeptical about the results of Prodest Hotel Manager who, according to him, is being persecuted, kept in poor and dehumanizing conditions, poorly fed, denied access to good medical care, his family, etc. since May 10 till date.
“We also call on the Rivers State Government to ensure the protection of the rights of Prodest Hotel Manager, guarantee his safety and those of others in its custody arrested and detained over alleged violations of COVID-19 Executive Orders in line with provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) and other regional and international human rights instruments ratified by Nigeria and also applicable in Rivers State,” the organization demanded.
Fyneface explained that the rejection of Dr. Azoroh’s COVID-19 status became necessary because it is evident that from the beginning of the alleged violation of Executive Order Six till date, the fate of the hotel Manager had depended on the whims and caprices of the Rivers State Government, including the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)/Government report that he is COVID-19 positive.
Besides, Fyneface pointed out, from inception to date, the exercise of both executive and judicial powers over the hotel, its management and staff for alleged violations had remained at the mercy of the State Government without an opportunity for open trial.
The Organization noted that Azoroh had alleged the violations of his constitutionally guaranteed fundamental Human Rights, lack of transparency in the trial process, absence of fair-hearing, denial of access to charge sheets and record of proceedings as well as legal representation on May 18 as he was convicted in the absence of his lawyer who was not granted movement permit to the Court to defend his client during the total lock down of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas.
Fyneface continued that they are “worried that the Prodest Hotel Manager would be singled-out of the 27 COVID-19 positive cases reported on May 24 and named by the Rivers State. We recalled that the Rivers COVID-19 index case was not named. It is also on record that the Rivers State government was angry with both the index case, the female Model for granting media interview and a radio Station in Port Harcourt (that did not also name the Model) for airing the exclusive interview.
“Thus, the open reference to Prodest hotel manager in the government statement is not only against the ethics of COVID-19 patients’ management of concealing their identities against stigmatization, but also sends wrong signal that the Rivers State Government may be working towards scoring a “COVID-19 Accusation Point” on the hotel demolition.
“On the magic of how Prodest Hotel Manager, Bariledum Azoroh, Ph.D may have contracted the virus,the group recalls that he was arrested and detained at the Isolation Centre also housing COVID-19 positive cases since May 10.
“On May 18, he was convicted by a Magistrate Court sitting at the same Isolation Centre’s premises and sentenced to remain at the same Isolation Centre for 14days after paying N50,000 fine and undergoing COVID-19 test leading to this report that he tested positive on May 24.
“We are surprised that he tested ‘positive’ when all those arrested in crowded trucks impounded with cattle as well as over 200 others arrested at different places and detained at the same Isolation Centre with many of them allegedly convicted have not tested positive to COVID-19 or get named as cases like Dr. Azoroh.”