By Chidi Nkwopara, Owerri
Imo State Government has, in its renewed bid to enforce strict observance of the COVID-19 pandemic protocols, threatened to arrest and prosecute any person that refuses adhere to wear a face mask and observe social distance.
Similarly, the government warned workers against being instruments in the hands of those he called “unpatriotic labour leaders”.
Governor Hope Uzodimma, who read the riot act in a broadcast Friday evening, announced the setting up of four Mobile Courts, two in Owerri and one each in Orlu and Okigwe Zones, to try those who treat with levity, the protocols on COVID-19 pandemic preventive measures.
While wondering why Imo people have refused to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 safety protocols of wearing a facemask, regular sanitization and washing of their hands and observance of social distancing, the Governor, however, warned that “the Government Executive Order, making it compulsory for all Imo people to wear a face mask, will henceforth be enforced with unwavering determination.”
His words: “Imo State COVID-19 Committee and relevant agencies in the Ministry of Health, have been empowered to arrest and prosecute anyone seen in public without a face mask. Such offenders when convicted, would be liable to a maximum jail term of six months or N20,000 in lieu.
“In the same vein, the Executive Order further provides that any gathering of more than 50 persons anywhere in the state, is an offence. The conveners of such gatherings also risk six months in prison or N20,000 in lieu.
“All hotels, eateries, supermarkets and stores are by the Executive Order, compelled to provide hand sanitisers, wash handstands, test the temperature of their customers and insist on a face mask before admitting them into their premises. Failure to adhere to these directives, such stores, hotels, eatery or night clubs, will be permanently shut down.
“In addition, the proprietors will be prosecuted. These measures, equally apply to all forms of religious gatherings, marriages, funerals and markets.”
The Governor reiterated the earlier warning that no one would be allowed to enter any public building in the state without wearing a facemask, adding that “heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, have been directed to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are strictly observed in their offices and businesses with the public.”
Uzodimma further warned that if the people continue to take the directives for granted, he will have no choice but to authorize a second lockdown of the state.
On the brewing labour unrest in the state, Governor Uzodimma reassured Imo workers of Government’s determination to continue to make their welfare top priority.
Uzodimma said: “Efforts are on-going to ensure that details of the correct data of the few workers still having issues with their payroll are collated and built into the automated payroll system.”
He announced the issuance of a personal identification form to Imo workers to complete, the target of which is to ensure that every legitimate worker in the State is given the opportunity to provide his or her personal identification detail for the payroll automation. The Governor used the opportunity to warn Imo workers against “being instruments in the hands of unpatriotic labour leaders, who being used by politicians to peddle falsehood, veiled parochial and unbridled bigotry against the state, with the aim of actualizing political interest of opposition politicians.”
He warned: “If any worker decides to join a baseless strike action he/she should not be in any doubt that there will be no salary at the end of the month.
Our policy is simple: ‘No work, No pay’, which is in accordance with International Labour Law provisions, Section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act.”