Lagos and Osogbo — Armed soldiers on Friday invaded Newspapers' distribution centres in Osun State for a-yet-to be ascertained alleged implicating report.
The soldiers who stormed the centre as early as 6am in a truck approached the newspaper distributors and sales agents looking for the incriminating reports in some newspapers.
But the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State chapter in a swift reaction condemned the act saying the action was akin to the dark days of the military era in the country when press was subjected to humiliation.
Deji Elumoye, the chairman of the union said, NUJ noted the development with concerns saying similar actions by the soldiers were reported in some states.
He described the approach of the soldiers as crude and barbaric. "We think the right thing to do is to seek redress at the law court if they feel offended by any publication. The newspapers in questions were noted for balanced and excellent reportage."
"We are in touch with our lawyers and we are going to be guarded on the next legal action. The National Executive Meeting of NUJ to be held in Taraba State next week will address the issue. We won't hesitate to take legal action because this is a clear case of violation of freedom of expression and speech" he said during a chat with Saturday Independent.
Reports have it that the soldiers were seen demanding for all the newspapers at the centre before they could be distributed to the agents and vendors in the state.
The soldiers numbering about 50 were strategically positioned along station road, Osogbo with an armoured vehicle, while some approached the distributors for the papers.
When one of the soldiers was accosted by our Correspondent, he said they were acting on the "orders from above." The soldiers who refused to disclose their identity said "we were directed from above to come here."
It was gathered that the soldiers were in search of Daily Trust, Leadership and The Nation Newspapers as some of them had earlier requested for the newspaper from the distributor at the centre. A newspaper distributor who spoke with our correspondent, Chief Adetoyese Olayanju said that the soldiers on arrival demanded the newspapers. The distributors were smart enough to prevent the newspapers from being seized by the soldiers.
Others newspapers including Daily Independent which arrived early enough went through serious scrutiny by the soldiers before they could be distributed by the agents.
The presence of soldiers on the major street however caused apprehension in Osogbo as residents of the town expressed worry on the sudden appearance of Soldiers on the streets and the invasion of the newspaper distribution centre. However, The Leadership and Daily Trust newspapers were not sold in Osun State throughout the day, a development which was unusual.
A front line human rights activist in the state, Comrade Amitolu Shitu who condemned the ugly development, said the incident was a repeat of the evil occurrences of the Military era. He said "today we have again experienced what we experienced during the Abacha Military regime. It is an indication that the President Goodluck Jonathan led administration is weak and the man at the centre.