Police operatives attached to the Intelligence Response Team of the Inspector General of Police have arrested no fewer than seven newspaper vendors and distribution agents in Imo State for circulating news related to Indigenous People of Biafra and the Eastern Security Network.
The police operatives swooped on them on Monday morning at their base located at Number 5 Rotibi Street, Douglas Road, Owerri, as the circulation of the day’s newspapers was ongoing.
Other vendors and distribution agents who ran away, told journalists that the gun-wielding police operatives accused them of circulating newspaper publications that had stories on IPOB and ESN.
According to Punch, one of the vendors who escaped the arrest said “as we were circulating our newspapers for the Monday edition, policemen putting on jackets that had IRT inscription swooped on us and started arresting us. The ones they took away were the ones that had Newspapers that had IPOB stories and the ones they said were against the government.”
Some of the vendors and distribution agents arrested by the IGP’s team are Nnamso Okoro, Nelson Enyiama, Blessing Isinwa, Onyebuchi Iwundu, and Michael.
The arrest also affected newspaper circulation in the state on Monday as the other vendors and distribution agents fled over the fear of being arrested.
At the Government House Roundabout in Owerri, a popular place people gather to read newspapers and analyse issues, there was anger as people fumed and called on the government to stop gagging the press.
One of them said, “Do they think that arresting vendors and distribution agents and journalists will stop us from knowing the truth? They don’t know journalists, the more you arrest them, the more they write. Journalists are very strong people. Journalists are stubborn. They are very courageous. Journalists are trained to expose the evils in society. Journalists are always on the side of the people.”
Another person said, “This administration is very clueless. Just look at the insecurity bedevilling our country; the only strength they have is to arrest newspaper vendors and distribution agents who are doing their lawful businesses. Why is it that this administration hates press freedom? Why is it that this administration does not like the truth?
“Insurgents have taken over LGAs in Bauchi, Zamfara, Niger, and Nasarawa states and they are about entering Abuja and the only response this clueless government has is to arrest vendors and distribution agents. Very soon they will start arresting journalists, but that will not solve the problem. Government should be proactive not this petty approach.”
When contacted, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Abutu Yaro, said the operatives were not from his command.