About 70 soldiers in military uniforms stormed Oke-Padre area of Ibadan, home of newspapers distribution, harassing and assaulting newspapers’ distributors and vendors who came to their offices early Friday morning.
The targets were The Nation newspapers and the company’s staff who had to seek refuge elsewhere after they were told the soldiers’ mission.
But the office was sealed, while editorial staff complained of attempt by some unnamed persons to trick them into the soldiers’ hands by offering advert placements through phone calls.
Already, a circulation van belonging to The Nation was impounded for several hours on Ogunpa Bridge by soldiers who were still holding the vehicle and its driver, Ibrahim hostage.
Ibrahim’s phone, The Nation’s identity card and some cash were forcefully taken from him by the soldiers.
Aside The Nation Van, The Vanguard distribution van was also seized. The two vehicles were impounded on the same spot by the soldiers.
It has also been reported that other newspapers that arrived early such as The Guardian, The Punch and The Sun were hurriedly taken away by the distributors to an undisclosed location where the papers were distributed to vendors unnoticed by the soldiers.
Meanwhile, The Defence Headquarters in Abuja denied reports that the military seized newspapers critical of its activities.
In a statement, the Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, said that troops embarked on thorough search of vehicles conveying newspapers and newsprints across board, following an intelligence report.
The statement said the intelligence report indicated the movement of materials with grave security implications across the country, using the channel of newsprint related consignments.
“The Defence Headquarters wishes to clarify that the exercise has nothing to do with content or operation of the media organisations or their personnel as is being wrongly imputed by a section of the press.
“The military appreciates and indeed respects the role of the media as an indispensable partner in the ongoing counter-insurgency operation and the overall advancement of our country’s democratic credentials.
“The military will not deliberately and without cause infringe on the freedom of the press,’’ the statement said.
The public and the affected media houses were assured that the exercise was a routine security action and should not be misconstrued for any other motive. (NAN)