Newspaper vendors in Awka, Anambra State yesterday declared an indefinite strike and suspended distribution of dallies following what they described as incessant harassment by government agents.
The Guardian’s investigation revealed that several bundles of various Nigerian newspapers supplied to Awka were dumped at different distribution points in the state capital.
A letter sent by the Association of Vendors to Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Professor Solo Chukwulobelu, alleged harassment and extortion by officials of Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA) Brigade.
Chairman of the association, Emma Nweze, who signed the letter, said his members would stop distributing newspapers and magazines in the state until government assures them of their safety.He lamented that officials of OCHA Brigade seized their tables and umbrellas, while their members were being molested and beaten up, insisting that they were rendering legitimate and essential service to people.
Wondering why government officials constantly harass them, Nweze said, “We are constrained to write this petition to solicit your intervention in the nightmare we have been passing through in the hands of OCHA Brigade officials for a long time now.
Our sales spots and stands were designated and approved by the Anambra State Environmental Sanitation Agency (ASESA).
“Following the incessant clamp-down on our members and seizure of our items, especially tables and umbrellas, we decided to visit management of the agency where we met the Director, Douglas Okafor.“He told us that it was wrong for the taskforce officials to seize our materials, saying the agency does not usually disturb newspaper vendors.”
The petitioners, however, alleged that Okafor asked them to pay for the cost the agency incurred in taking photographs of their seized items seized, and transporting them to their office.They added that the vendors have decided not to pay the money, as they had not committed any offence, describing the demand for payment before their items would be released, as mere extortion.
But at press time, things had assumed a different dimension, as Director of Department of Security Services (DSS) in the state had intervened in the matter, resulting in a meeting with executive of the association.