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Bayelsa govt. warns police against extorting residents over facemasks

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By Udoyo Afahaeme, Yenagoa

Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri has urged the Nigerian Police and other security operatives in the state not to harass and extort money from members of the public under the guise of enforcing the order on compulsory use of face-mask.

Senator Diri gave the warning on Wednesday while donating tens of thousands of face-masks to representatives of Bankers, Markets, Road Transport Workers, Maritime, and Tricycle Owners unions in Government House, Yenagoa.

The Governor, who was represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, said the state government has neither given any task-force nor the police the mandate to place a sanction of fine on anybody found without a face-mask.

He stressed the need for due process in the enforcement of laws to avoid trampling on the fundamental human rights of the citizens.

According to him, the state government has always shown leniency and empathy in executing the COVID-19 protocols and orders with a view to mitigating its attendant harsh consequences on the people.

While urging the police to intensify their efforts at fighting crime and criminality in the state, the Governor noted that a joint task force might be set up to enforce the order if there is no change in the behavior of the people.

His words, “What we’ve done today is to keep the promise we made to the unions last week. We promised that while we want to enforce the use of face-masks in our public places, we want to assist the unions by donating some face masks.

“I want to also put on record that this is not the first set of face-masks. We had earlier distributed over 30,000 facemasks in this state. But we realized that what we did the other time was not appropriate.

“And so, this time we are giving it to the unions so that they can enforce it effectively. We have not authorized any taskforce especially of the Nigerian Police to enforce wearing of facemasks in this state.

“Bayelsans or Nigerians should not be harassed or extorted in the name of enforcing the use of facemasks. The law is to warn. You warn before you arm.

“And what we are doing now is to warn. We shall arm when the time comes. And when we want to arm, it is going to be in collaboration with the various task-forces that will be set up by the market union, road transport workers union, bankers as well as maritime unions and others.

“So the police should be alive to its mandate of dealing with crime and criminality in this state. They should smoke out the cultists, armed robbers and other criminals.”

Responding, representatives of the state Bankers Forum, Mr Emeka Umekwe, Maritime Workers Union, Comrade Ogoniba Ipigansi and Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria thanked the state government for the kind gesture.

They said the steps government has taken so far would go a long way in, not only making the people believe in the existence of COVID-19 but also curb its massive spread in the state.

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