Hundreds of residents, business owners and commuters who pass through the Okoro-Nu-Odu Flyover and parts of Rumuodomaya/Rumuokoro stretch of East-West road are groaning over the 24-hour lockdown imposed in the area by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Wike had on 22nd November 2020, imposed a 24-hour curfew in the affected areas over what he described as a spike in cult-related activities.
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Apart from the rival cult activities in the area, the governor was also not happy with the activities of illegal street traders and touts, who have taken over the construction site of the ongoing Okoro Nu Odu flyover, which is nearing completion.
Okoro Nu Odu flyover is one out of the seven flyover contracts awarded by the governor last year.
Hundreds of roadside traders and touts had taken over the construction sites where they displayed their wares to the detriment of their safety given the heavy-duty construction equipment that dot the site.
Giving reasons for the curfew, the governor said that rival cult groups have made the area unsafe where scores of persons have been maimed and properties destroyed.
He also decried the activities of illegal street traders and touts who he said had constituted major obstacles towards the speedy completion of the flyover projects.
Two months after, residents, business owners and commuters are lamenting the difficulties they face in accessing their houses as well as disruption of business activities.
When our reporter visited the area, the entire one-kilometre radius to the ongoing flyover construction site was shut down and cordoned by security personnel.
Our reporter learnt that vehicular movement around the Okoro-Nu-Odu flyover is restricted as commuters are forced to disembark from their vehicles and trek a long distance before catching up with another vehicle.
Some commuters were seen trekking to crossover to the other side of Okoro Nu Odu to catch up with the next available vehicles.
Parents, whose children recently resumed to schools were seen carrying them to catch the few vehicles available.
A resident of Okoro Nu Odu, Monica Emeka, said that the governor overreached by imposing the curfew.
She said that the imposition of the curfew was an overkill adding that the governor could have just asked the law enforcement agents to fish out suspected cultists.
“Nobody is in support of cultists but for the governor to subject the entire residents to untold hardship with a 24-hour curfew is not very good for many of the residents.
“I suffered a lot to take my children to school. I have to trek some distance with my four children every day. You can imagine the stress,” she said.
Our reporter also observed that shops are not open for business as all are under lock and key.
Some of the traders at Rumuokoro market were seen standing in front of their shops canvassing for customers.
One of the traders, who simply identified himself as Polycarp told our reporter that many of the traders came out every morning to hang around their shops and canvass for customers.
“Since the government imposed the lockdown many of us have been subjected to untold hardship.
“Nobody is against the efforts of the state government in fighting insecurity but it should apply human face in such a fight. To shut down an entire area for two months is too much.
“It has subjected many people that are doing business in the area to untold hardship. We have not opened our shops for two months now and our families have been at the receiving end,” he said.
Another trader, Martins Okwufor said: “What many of us do every day is to come out and hang around our shops.
“I deal on tiles and I have lost many of my customers since the curfew was imposed in this area.
“We are really suffering and we are appealing to the governor to relax the curfew,” he said.
Our reporter gathered that those selling vegetables and other perishable items have moved towards the Rumuoagholu and Omachi axis of Rumuokoro with their goods for sale.
Some of the motorists who spoke with our reporter narrated how difficult it is for them to ply their vehicles along Rumuokoro axis of Obio Akpor.
A motorist, James Amaechi said, “it’s very difficult for many of us to access our homes with vehicles through the Rumuokoro axis of Port Harcourt.
“I am resident in the adjoining street and find it extremely difficult to get to my house with the vehicle.
“I have to park my vehicle in the next street and cross to Rumuokoro before getting into my house,” he said.
The government said that the curfew was imposed to check the spike of cult-related activities in the state. No specific time frame was given by Governor Wike for the relaxation of the curfew.
The Commissioner for Information and Communication, Paulinius Nsirim did not pick his calls nor returned messages sent to him on whether the government was aware of the plight of the residents.