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Police wages “war” against newspaper vendors and readers in South East region over IPOB reports

Operatives of the Nigeria Police are harassing newspaper vendors and readers in the South East region of Nigeria especially in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, over allegations of being megaphones for carrying reports of Indigenous People of Biafra.

In Aba, the Policemen from the Area Command have been carrying out arrest of newspaper vendors and readers since last weekend.

On Sunday, there was tension at Ama-Ogbonna Junction in the commercial city when Police raided the area in pursuit of newspaper vendors and readers, with residents scampering for safety as the Police officers shot into the air as they tried to apprehend them.

Residents said that the Police accused the vendors of distributing newspapers which had stories on the sit-at-home order by IPOB, thereby spreading secessionist messages.

Dr. Elendu Ukoh, one of the eyewitness, appealed to the Abia State government and Igbo leaders to call the Nigeria Police to order for them to rein in their officers so as not to aggravate the already tense situation which could precipitate open crisis in the city.

According to Dr Ukoh, “the kind of people we put into Police these days make me wonder if we really want anything good out of this country called Nigeria. How can someone be chasing newspaper vendors around in Aba, in this modern world?

“If you stop people from reading hard copies of newspapers, will you also stop them from reading the same stories on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, among others? What manner of primitive policing is this?

“They caused panic on Sunday by their shooting and noisemaking. The whole neighborhood thought that they were chasing kidnappers. It was later that we discovered that police came to arrest a vendor and readers, who gathered in his newspaper stand. How can police be fighting newspaper vendors? What manner of problem can paper cause that Social Media cannot cause 20 times over. This people are not normal,” he said.

Michael Anorue, another resident, said almost all the vendor stands he visited in Aba on Tuesday were empty.

He said, “We learnt they were saying on Saturday and Sunday that the newspapers had stories on the sit-at-home order in honour of Biafran heroes and my question is what is wrong with it?

“The early political leaders in South East, remind these reckless police officers that Biafra is bigger than IPOB the better for them. Does proscription of IPOB mean that Biafra has been proscribed too?

“We’re all Biafrans! On the 30th of May, the World Igbo Congress (WIC) held a zoom conversation, talking about Biafran fallen heroes. Why can’t police go to YouTube, Zoom and other social media that aired it? All they do is to come to streets and start looking for unnecessary trouble. I wish the leaders in Igboland will warn those reckless police officers not to allow what’s happening in Imo State to enter Aba, because it will be worst for everybody.”

Though Superintendent of Police Geoffrey Ogbonna, Abia State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), denied that the Police arrested newspaper vendors and readers in Aba, sources said it was so widespread that vendors decided to stop the display of newspapers in stands.

In most States of the South East, newspaper vendors and readers have complained of harassment by Police and other security agents over display and reading of newspapers

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