Uproar yesterday trailed arrest of news agents and vendors by operatives of the Intelligence Response Team of the Inspector General of Police, which arrested no fewer than seven newspaper vendors and distribution agents in Imo State.
According to the Vanguard, the police operatives swooped on them, yesterday, at their 5, Rotibi Street, Douglas Road, Owerri, base 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 newspapers, magazines and publications that had stories on the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
Although, four of the vendors were said to have been released at press time, vendors in the state have vowed to begin stake, today, over increasing harassment of their members.
This came as the state government washed its hands over the matter. Imo State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Declan Emelumba, in a text message said: ‘’The Imo State Government did not order arrest of vendors. The exercise was purely a security operation by security operatives obviously for informed security reasons. However, the arrested vendors have been released.’’
One of the vendors, who escaped 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.
Imo State Circulation Manager of the New Telegraph Newspaper, Chuks Ugwuibe, is still being held in an undisclosed security facility after he was arrested in Orlu, last Tuesday by security operatives while taking his weekly returns from vendors.
The arrest of the newspaper vendors and distribution agents elicited reactions as residents of the state asked the government to stop press clamp down.
The arrest affected circulation of newspapers in the state, yesterday, as the other vendors and distribution agents fled over the fear of being arrested.