AEPB Destroys Newspaper Copies, Assaults Vendors, Distributors In Abuja
The Newspaper Distributors in the FCT has again come under a severe attack, as men of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, on Friday launched an unprecedented offensive against Newspaper distributors in Karu and Nyayan axis of the capital city. Hundreds of newspapers of different brands, awaiting distribution to the zones were set on fire by stern looking security men deployed by AEPB. Newsstands worth huge amount of money were destroyed at different locations between Karu and Nyayan in the FCT.
Addressing reporters at the scene, eye witness account described the action of the FCT men as cruel and evil, owing to inhuman manners in which AEPB destroyed carried out the onslaught against the media on Friday.
A sympathizer called our attention to several other containers in the vicinity, which according to the source “were built by food hawkers who can afford to pays #30,000 monthly to the men of Abuja Environmental Protection Board” the source said. Another source who pleaded anonymity corroborated the claim, saying apart from raiding petty traders on Sundays, he said AEPB only attack Newspaper vendors among other pretty traders, who failed or refuses to understand their language.
One of the victims, Mr. Abraham Ugwu, owner of NME Distribution Agency recounts his loss in the attack. He told our reporter that, though the men of AEPB had wanted him to maintain a mini size newspaper stand for unknown reasons. Abraham added that his Newspaper’s kiosk was designed to accommodate huge numbers of newspaper and Magazines, being a major distributor with over thirty distribution outlets within the FCT:
“I have been operating at this spot over the last seven years, even before the Karu Magistrate Court was later built close to my stand. And due to excellent rapport I maintained with immediate past Chief Magistrate of the court, there has never been any intimidation or harassment against my presence”
“In fact, the Newsstand has been the highpoint of my distribution and collations networks spanning seven years, with over thirty outlets cut across the FCT, up to Gwarinpa in the city center. I have never been this humiliated in my thirty years of Newspaper vending, and not a few among regular lawyers of this court also patronized my stand on daily basis.” Emma said.
As for Onyebushi Okafor, another major newspaper distributor within the vicinity, that also lost valuable materials to inferno when his newsstand came under attack. Onyebushi described the action of the AEPB as inhuman, saying the Friday morning action cost him a huge loss of sales.
“If only I prepared for the show of shame demonstrated by AEPB, my loss would have been minimal. They pounced on us unprepared like a common criminals, threw my Newspaper in disarray before setting them on fire, and
they did not stop there, we were equally arrested by this people.” He said.
In confirmation of the destructions by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, smokes from newspaper debris still rent the air at the time our reporter arrived at the scene. Not few among the bystanders described the attitude of the security agents as unruly. Indeed, the site of the demolition was pathetic.
However, all efforts to get the AEPB side of the report were unsuccessful, as calls put across to the agency’s Head of Operation were ignored at the time of filing this report; neither was the text messages returned.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Abuja Newspapers Vendors Association, ANVA, Mr. Samuel Jimoh, who was at the detention center to bail his members from AEPB’s den, also expressed his disbelief. He described the action of the FCT environmental agency as inimical, saying it is another affront against the right of the media to excise its civic duty of information dissemination without hindrance.
“Both the MNE and Abofine Agencies that suffered major losses in the attack, were among old members of ANVA. I personally went for their bail at the AEPB detention camp, after being subjected to such an inhuman treatment by men of AEPB”
“As a duly registered association, recognized by law as a branch of the national body of Newspaper Distribution of Nigeria, and endorsed by the Nigerian Union of Journalist; I wouldn’t know on order of whom this dastardly act was perpetrated against our members; the bottom line is that, we unequivocally condemned this action in a strong term. We consider it an affront against our freedom as a branch of the Nigerian Press, and it is also despicable that this is happening in the era of the much touted government of change we all voted. We therefore called on the Perm Sec, in the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. John Chukwu to call his men to order, and to tender an unreserved apology to ANVA, within 24 hours, or be ready to face legal consequences.” Samuel opined.
Meanwhile, further enquiries by this newspapers revealed that, the attack is not limited within Karu; many other newspaper stands were destroyed around Nyayan, also in the FCT. The chairman, Jimoh later informed some members of NUJ that AEPB in his desperation has equally gone round Asokoro and AYA distribution areas, to warned vendors of imminent attacks.
“We are a law abiding association over the years; even if the society we find ourselves does not recognize our impact, we made bold to say we are men of integrity that go about our business peacefully. We therefore seize this opportunity to plead with FCT administration, to live our members alone, or be ready to meet an unprecedented revolt by ANVA.” He assured.