Imo state police command has apologised to media practitioners in Imo state over the recent clampdown on newspapers vendors and distributors in the state.
Police commissioner, Abutu Yaro, said that the arrest was not arbitrary, but was in the course of investigation into some issues in publication that the command was investigating.
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According to him, the vendors were arrested by operatives of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) for profiling and analysis over certain publications being circulated in the state.
Speaking when he received the leadership of the Correspondents’ Chapel at the Command Headquarters in Owerri, on Tuesday, the commissioner, “In the course of my finding, I got to know that IRT operatives said they have been working on the subject matter before now on some publications and on some issues that require further profiling and analysis.
“And in tracking that assignment, the point of concentration revolves around that particular spot and those persons were of primary evidence to them. And that they are profiling the persons in respect to what they are doing.
Earlier, the correspondents led by the chairman, Chris Njoku said the visit was to bring to the knowledge of the commissioner to the recent unprovoked arrest of the vendors and distributors in the state.
According to him, “Vendors and distributors are vital components of newspaper organizations and anything that affects them also directly or indirectly us, the journalists.”
The security agents were said to have gone to Rotobi, taking Ugwuibe with them, and ransacked the whole area and arrested two sales representatives and two vendors.
The situation was said to have sent jitters down the spine of newspaper distributors in Owerri, who quickly closed shop and ran away.
A vendor, who spoke to our correspondent, anonymously, said that the men did not disclose their identities.
“They were looking for papers, they said, that carried bad news about the government. They were just arresting everybody arbitrarily. All of us are afraid,” he said.
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 the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra and that were “anti- state.”
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 carried IPOB stories and the ones they said were against the government.”