From Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Rivers State government has dismissed political colouration from some quarters to the shutting down of SPAR Supermarket by a court in Port Harcourt last week.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Chris Finebone, in a statement yesterday, said the court stopped SPAR Supermarket, the occupier of Port Harcourt Mall, from carrying out the Black Friday sales from November 18 to 27, 2022, as a result of the management’s failure to receive state government officials to ascertain the safe preparedness for the sales.
Finebone disclosed that the state government through the Ministry of Environment had dispatched a letter to the SPAR Supermarket management, requesting to allow the management to ascertain the company’s readiness to manage the envisaged crowd and other issues that the sales might trigger.
He said the state government wanted to take proactive measures to prevent a repeat of the calamity that occurred at Port Harcourt Polo Club, where some lives were lost due to poor crowd management
He expressed: “Against the background of politically motivated spins, reverse spins and outright distortions being created over a rather straightforward matter, it has become pertinent to state exactly what transpired and the present position of things with regard to the court Order on Spar Supermarket, the occupier of Port Harcourt Mall, from carrying out the Black Friday sales from 18th to 27th November 2022 until it shows that safety and environmental measures are put in place.
“Following past incidents of environmental health and safety nature concerning places of crowd gathering particularly the recent sad incident at Port Harcourt Polo Club grounds where a religious group held a gathering and the resultant fatalities that happened due to poor crowd management, the Rivers State Government committed to acting proactively going forward.
“This was the reason why the government decided to engage with the management of Spar to ascertain that necessary environmental, health and safety concerns were addressed by the company before this year’s Black Friday sales which is likely to attract a large crowd.
“With the Black Friday sales a few days away, the Rivers State Ministry of Environment dispatched a letter to the company requesting to allow the Ministry officials led by the Honourable Commissioner, Barr. Emenike Eke, to visit and meet with Spar management to ascertain the company’s readiness to manage the envisaged crowd and other issues that the sales might trigger.
“Despite giving clear 48 official hours notice to Spar through the letter, which was duly received and acknowledged, the Supermarket officials were unavailable to receive the team from the Ministry led by the Honourable Commissioner. The team remained in Spar premises for about 20 minutes without any official of the supermarket willing or ready to engage the team.
“Subsequently, the Honourable Commissioner sent another letter stating that Spar should not proceed on commencing the Black Friday Sales without meeting with the Ministry officials to address environmental health and safety issues. This letter was also received by the company but no action was taken by them.
“When it became obvious that Spar management was intensifying the advertisement to go ahead with the Black Friday sales without meeting with the Rivers State Government officials to address the issues raised, the government had no other option than to approach the court to stop Spar from proceeding with their planned promotional sales. The court subsequently granted an Order stopping Spar Supermarket from carrying out Black Friday sales from 18th to 27th November 2022 until it shows that safety and environmental measures have been put in place to ensure public safety.
“Whereas the Rivers State Government insists that the lives and properties of its people must be protected by every entity in the state, Spar Supermarket hindered, obstructed and prevented the officers of the Ministry of Environment from inspecting safety and environmental measures in its market. Quite sadly, instead of Spar seeking ways to have the issues resolved, Spar continued sending out text messages to the public insisting that the Black Friday sales will go ahead.”
Finebone stated that government had taken notice of the eventual remorse shown by the overall boss of SPAR Supermarket acknowledging that the company mismanaged the entire matter.
He advised: “Government will encourage SPAR to take the part of due process to bring the unfortunate incident to a final closure by doing the right thing in accordance with relevant State laws and regulations.”