Newspaper vendors protest harassment in Akwa Ibom

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Patrick Odey, Uyo

More than 50 newspaper vendors in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Thursday, stormed the Correspondents’ Chapel on Asutan Street to protest their alleged harassment and intimidation by the Ibom Plaza officials.

The vendors, who did not carry placards, alleged that some of their members had been beaten on several occasions and their newspapers thrown away by the officials.

Speaking with newsmen, the Chairman of the group, Otobong Udofia, said the members had incurred much loss as a result of the harassment.

He said efforts to stop the aggression had not yielded any fruit.

Udofia stated, “The management of the Ibom Plaza has been coming to harass our members on daily basis and right now, we are in a fix. We don’t understand our stand as vendors in the state; if they don’t want us, they should let us know.

“When they come, they will demand money from the vendors. They say our activity is encouraging people coming there to pick people’s pockets and we have asked questions; how does picking pocket in the plaza concern vendors? They say the government say we should leave the plaza.

“They demanded N2,000 monthly from us, but we have insisted that vendors cannot pay because our commission is only N40 per newspaper copy and before we are able to get a plate of food for N200, we would have walked around Uyo metropolis.

“We have been supporting the government; we wonder why the government is against us.”

A victim of the alleged harassment, Sunday Etukudoh, said, “Last Tuesday was the third time the Chairman of the Ibom Plaza Management came to harass me.

“He (chairman) said I should tell every other vendor not to sell newspapers in the plaza again. He commanded me to pack all my newspapers and leave the plaza.

“The second time he came was the day Governor Udom Emmanuel was receiving his Certificate of Return; and on Tuesday, this week, he came back and reminded me that he had commanded me not display newspapers again in the plaza.

“I pleaded with him that I would pack my newspapers, but while I was trying to do so, he slapped and injured me.”

A board member of the group, Chidiebere Ubah, called on the government to come to the aid of the vendors by stopping the unnecessary harassment by its agents, adding that vendors had incurred massive losses as result of the situation.

However, the Chairman of the Ibom Plaza Plaza Management, Ima Umoh, denied the allegation of harassment, adding that the decision to ask the vendors to leave was to sanitise the place and rid it of hoodlums, who had been coming in to steal.

Umoh said he asked the vendors not to display their papers because by so doing, they encourage hoodlums to come into the plaza.

He said, “We have not intimidated any vendor; the idea is to sanitise the environment because a lot of people have been complaining of people coming in there in the name of reading papers to steal.

“We have issues; so, we invited their leaders and we have settled. What we said was that they should not display newspapers in the open, because that would attract hoodlums to steal.”

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Udoh, said the government encouraged entrepreneurship and would not engage in any activity that would not promote or encourage it.

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