Newspaper vendors in Aba, Abia State, are counting their losses following the confiscation of their wares by soldiers yesterday. The Soldiers confiscated unsold and new editions of New Republic, Vesym, Freedom Journal and Authority.
The soldiers, believed to have come from 144 Battalion, which is under Ohafia 14 Brigade, stormed St. Michael’s Road at about 7am, in two Hilux vans and seized the papers bearing Biafra reports.
After attempts at arresting distributors and publishers failed, the soldiers packed the unsold and current editions of the papers and left.
A vendor said: “At about some minutes past seven, soldiers in two Hilux vans arrived with one of the vendors that they picked along Mosque, asking him to point at the person who gave him the paper. But the vendor could not, because the person who gave him the paper had gone.
“They asked to know the publishers or suppliers but got no response. Then they confiscated New Republic, Vesym, Freedom Journal and some copies of The Authority, which carried Biafra stories. “We are yet to be told the reason for the confiscation, but the truth is that we have lost money as many readers were disappointed.”
A publisher, who pleaded for anonymity, condemned the action of the soldiers. He said they were overstepping their bounds and vowed that “attempts by the military to gag the press will fail. We are publishing reports about Biafra like other national dailies do. Let them close down all the media houses because they are carrying Biafra stories, after all, we are not the only ones publishing stories on Biafra.”
Media Officer of the 144 Brigade, Major Sydney Mbanefo could not be reached for comments but a source at 144 Battalion confirmed the seizure, saying it was due to the hate and inciting reports allegedly being published by the papers.
The source added that they were on the trail of the publishers and suppliers with the aim of nipping circulation of such inciting materials. He warned vendors to desist from selling such publication.
A Non-Governmental Organisation and Civil Rights group, Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, in a statement yesterday condemned the action. It described it as anti-democracy.
The statement by Comrades Nelson Nwafor and Emmanuel Acha said soldiers have no right to confiscate newspapers, no matter what is published, except on the orders of a competent court. It called on the Chief of Army Staff to call the soldiers to order before they take laws into their hands.