The clampdown by the Nigerian Military on Nigerian Newspapers has entered a second day, with more media houses falling under the sledge of the military’s hammer.
The development, which started yesterday, has affected no fewer than half a dozen national journals, including The Nation, Vanguard, Punch, Leadership Business Day, National Mirror, Newswatch and Complete Sports.
However, the Defence Headquarters yesterday denied any form of onslaught, saying its action followed “intelligence report(s) indicating movement of materials with grave security implications across the country, using the channel of newsprint-related consignments.”
On Saturday, soldiers on highways in Bayelsa, Oyo, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Rivers, Niger, Kogi, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Sokoto, Benue, Bauchi, Nasarawa states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), blocked circulation van drivers in route to deliver newspapers to agents and vendors.
The vehicles and contents were confiscated while drivers were arrested and their mobile phones seized.
Presently, several of the vehicles remained in the custody of the soldiers at their barracks, despite the fact that no incriminating material was found in any of them.
In an exclusive chat with DailyPost on Saturday, Lekan Otufodunrin, The Nation’s Managing Editor (Online), wondered what the press had done wrong.
“We don’t know what is happening. Our papers were seized yesterday in different parts of the country, it has continued today,” he said.
“We print in Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt. Although there are no reports of seizure in Lagos, military operatives did no allow our consignment to leave Abuja and Port-Harcourt. They literally ambushed our vans.
“You are aware they have seized other papers too. But no one is saying anything. Do the authorities even remember that we are in a democracy?
On the loss of revenue the company has recorded, Otufodunrin replied: “I can tell you that it is high. A situation where half or so of consignment is confiscated, the financial implication is not that hard to imagine. So, no doubt about the fact that we’ve lost millions in the last 30 hours.”
When asked if The Nation will consider a legal option on the face-off: “A decision to seek legal redress lies entirely on the management (Vintage Press Limited). I cannot say anything on that for now,” the official said with a promise to keep DailyPost posted on any development.
At least 20 soldiers in seven Military Hilux vans stormed the Distribution Centre in Area 11, Abuja at about 5.30am, said a vendor.
“Immediately they came, they took strategic positions and the team leader addressed us on why none of the newspapers can be circulated.
“He said they were acting on sensitive security reports that some subversive elements had perfected plans to hijack the newspapers’ distribution chain to ferry explosives to wreak havoc.
“They were civil but they gave us stern instructions not to attempt to distribute our copies.”
Another source said it was raining when the armed soldiers came to his own centre.
“They then asked the first set of vendors, who arrived in the place, to sit on the floor. But later, they screened us one by one, searched our vehicles, collected our phones and asked us to converge on a corner.
“At about 8.30am, they asked us to vacate the distribution centre. We were not allowed to pick our copies.
“At about 9.40am, leader of the team told agents and vendors to go for proper identification on or before Monday to ascertain those who are in the business, saying only accredited persons will henceforth be allowed in and out of the centre.”
A source at the Effurun Barracks, Delta State, said troops claiming they were acting on orders from above stated that the confiscated copies could only be released by the authorities.
Soldiers also invaded the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre in Benin, the Edo State capital to seize some Friday papers.
Yesterday, a team of plain clothes security operatives and troops reportedly laid siege to the The Nation’s office on Sakponba Road.
“I got here (Warri) at about 5:40am. They stopped me and said they had instruction from the Federal Government to stop all newspaper vehicles and make sure they are all searched for bombs,” Driver Uche Uka-George said.
“They stopped another newspaper vehicle, but they released that one. They said I should wait for bomb experts to come from Benin. I have been waiting since 5:40am till now (3pm). They have even seized the car key from me.”
The vehicle and driver were later released by the soldiers at 4:17pm, with no check carried out on the vehicle and no ‘bomb disposal experts’ from Benin.
Culled from DailyPost
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