The police yesterday issued an ultimatum to newspaper vendors plying their trade around the Power House Junction in Abuja to stop selling newspapers around the place as from tomorrow.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the order was passed by the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, in charge of the Asokoro Division who was said to have passed the orders purportedly based on intelligence report.
The latest planned clampdown on the media is coming few weeks after the military embarked on similar action by confiscating newspapers including the LEADERSHIP, The Nation and Daily Trust, among others.
The action cost the publishers millions of naira but the military claimed that they were acting on security intelligence report which revealed that insurgents had infiltrated the newspaper vendors and were using their vans to distribute bombs and weapons. The military clampdown and confiscation of newspapers spread across the country and lasted several days.
Chairman of the Abuja chapter of the Newspaper Vendors Association of Nigeria, Mr Samuel Jimoh, who reacted to the planned clampdown said the action was an infringement on the vendors' right to do business.
He told LEADERSHIP that the officers came from Asokoro Police station and handed down the warning.
"A police sergeant whose name tag read, Esther Mbang, came to the vendors at the Power House Junction and informed the vendors that they should not come out to work on Thursday. She did not explain anything but passed the warning and left," he said.
"When I was invited by the vendors, I and my secretary went to Asokoro where they said the lady came from to find out why the order. I was introduced to the officer in charge of crime. He refused to give his name but told us that they were acting on intelligence report.
"We asked them if the problem is because there are many vendors there because we have 30 vendors there and it is our fastest selling spot. He refused to answer but said we should comply," Jimoh said.
Jimoh said the security operatives should not harass vendors, pointing out that the association had already updated its in-house accreditation to ensure that insurgents did not infiltrate them.
When LEADERSHIP visited the FCT police command to confirm whether the FCT commissioner of police, Mr Joseph Mbu was aware of the planned clampdown, the spokesman, Daniel Altine was on leave.
However a senior officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mbu was not aware of the plan to stop vendors in the FCT from selling their papers. He said the CP only directed vendors to ensure that they did not move away from their newsstand.