Journalists in Rivers State have petitioned the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Zaki, over the harassment of vendors by some of his Divisional Police Officers (DPOs).
The journalists, under the aegis Correspondents’ Chapel of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), stated that the DPOs of Oyigbo, Elelenwo, Elekahia, and Rumuodomaya have for months running refused to allow vendors display newspapers for sale at strategy points within their jurisdictions.
The correspondents mentioned specifically the Oyigbo DPO who it said arrested three of the vendors and detained them for several days while demanding a total of N60,000 for their bail.
The report had it that one of them was later released on the payment of N10,000, which the wife borrowed from their pastor.
The petition, which was copied the Department of State Services and the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, stated that for over one month running the DPOs have refused them to display or sell their papers at the various areas where they have been selling the newspapers for decades.
According to the petition signed by Sir Ernest Chinwo and Amaechi Okonkwo, Chairman and Secretary of the chapel respectively: “The DPO of Elelenwo was reported to have vowed that he would never allow the vendor who displayed at the Elelenwo Junction to ever sell newspapers challenging the press to go ahead and write whatever they wished. He was said to have boasted that even the governor of the state cannot force him to do otherwise.”
The correspondents stated that the matter was worsened by the fact that the mentioned DPOs have not given any reason for their actions, appealing to the commissioner to use his good offices to resolve the matter by calling his officers to order and end their continued harassment of the vendors who are only performing their legitimate duties.
“Newspapers only publicise events and happenings in the society and in no way harm anyone or disturb the peace and security of the state”, the correspondents stated, adding “the police and journalists are partners in progress and harassing or muscling vendors who sell our papers amount to throwing spanner in this mutual relationship with the police.”
They called for the immediate intervention of the Commissioner of Police to end the misunderstanding and allow the vendors to return to their stands.