The Rivers State Government has closed down the biggest weekly market in the state, popularly known as the Oil Mill market with effect from today, Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
The closure of the market was announced in a special announcement issued on Tuesday night signed by, Paulinus Nsirim, Rivers Commissioner for Information and Communications.
Oil Mill Market is largest weekly market in Port Harcourt, the Rivers capital, where traders from contiguous state come every Wednesday of the week to transact businesses.
Observers believe that the closure of the market is part the measures by the state government to enforce social distancing to curb the possible spread of Coronavirus.
Meawhile, the 5-man Rivers State Inter-ministerial Committee on Enlightenment and Awareness Creation on COVID-19 says in continuation of its aggressive campaign, it will activate all its social media platforms, and carry out sensitisation to car parks and markets.
The Chairman of the Committee, and Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, said alongside activating the social media platforms, the Committee will also engage road transport workers and tricycle (Keke) owners to further send the Coronavirus messages across to the people.
The Chairman, who stated this as part of explanation on what the committee has been doing since its inauguration on the 12th of March, to the Rivers State House of Assembly Joint Committee on Health and Information in his office, also stated that while all the engagements with various stakeholder groups had been fruitful, the one with the International Oil Companies (IOCs) was “productive”.
“What we want to do, beginning from tomorrow, is to activate all the social media platforms. So that we will begin to feed content into those social media platforms in order to reach as many people as possible, knowing that the platform is one key area with considerably large patronage. We will also engage Road Transport Workers and Keke (tricircle) owners”, he said.
In furtherance of the campaign, the Chairman said on Wednesday, environmental health officers will be engaged to take the message to the streets.
“From tomorrow, we’ll engage Environmental Health Officers. They’ll begin street-to-street campaign and they will start with the markets and (car) parks. Thereafter, street-to-street. They will go with megaphones, through which messages will be conveyed to the people, while also distributing flyers”, he said.
The Commissioner also stated that car stickers bearing apt messages on the Coronavirus will be produced and distributed, in addition to vests, which will be worn by the Environmental Health Officers.
Nsirim explained that shortly after its inauguration, the Committee embarked on engaging key stakeholder groups, which started with Community Development Committee (CDC) of all the 23 Local Government Areas of the State.
He said this was followed by engagement with religious groups, the media, Principals/Head/Teachers/Proprietors of schools, Traders Association/National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), the Military/Paramilitary/Police, IOCs an and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).
Nsirim noted the meeting with the IOCs was productive to the extent that they had already activated internal measures of checking the infection with the Coronavirus, and its spread should there be the need.
This, he stated, is in addition to the IOCs promise to provide assistance to the State Government in the fight against the virus.
“Our meeting with the IOCs was very productive. They too have been proactive: they have a lot of expatriate staff, and on their own, they’ve been doing self-quarantine, and working closely with the Ministry of Health, each time they notice any suspected case among their staff.
“They’re also reducing work hours, the number of personnel that come to work each day as a way of enhancing social distance. They’ve also assured us of their collaboration in terms of technical expertise and provision of equipment”, he said.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Assembly Joint Committee on Health and Information, Honourable Samuel Ogeh, had explained the reason for the meeting with the Inter-ministerial Committee.
“We want to hear from you what measures you have put in place, and how you’re going about it, how you’re interfacing with the general public in terms of reaching out to them and keeping them informed”, he said.
On his part, the State Commissioner for Health, Professor Princewill Chike, explained the technicalities involved in the enlightenment campaign and coping with exigencies of the moment as they arise in the course of checking the Coronavirus.