Four major newspapers: The Punch, The Nation, Leadership and Daily Trust ran into trouble with the Nigerian military personnel who, in the early hours of today, went wild, confiscating and destroying copies of the newspapers that were sent into circulation.
The earliest report of the bizarre incident was the confiscation of copies of the Leadership Newspaper along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway and at the Abuja airport. At the Edo State office of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Benin, copies of Leadership and Nation Newspapers were seized from vendors.
The Punch Newspaper was also allegedly involved in the raid. The paper’s Punch Editor, Toyosi Ogunseye, confirmed on Twitter that front pages of the newspaper were torn at the Lagos airport today by soldiers.
The Nation online reported that soldiers impounded several vehicles conveying its newspapers to various stations in the South-south and other parts of the country. The paper also said that troops stormed its circulation depot located on Effurun, Sapele in search of the newspapers and the company’s staff.
“A van conveying the day’s newspapers to Warri and Benin City was seized by soldiers of the 3 Battalion of the Nigerian Army at Okwuokoko, Delta State,” it said.
In its reaction to the reports, the Nigerian military said today that it would not deliberately infringe on the freedom of the press without cause.
The Director Defence Information, Chris Olukolade, in a statement said that intelligence indicated that materials with grave security implications were being moved across the country through newsprint related consignments.
Mr. Olukolade said the exercise had nothing to do with the content or operation of the media organizations, saying: “The Defence Headquarters wishes to clarify that the exercise has nothing to do with content or operation of the media organizations or their personnel as is being wrongly imputed by a section of the press.”
He said that the military appreciated and respected the role of the media as an indispensable partner in the on-going counter-insurgency operation and assured the general public and the affected media organizations in particular that the exercise was a routine security action and should not be misconstrued for any other motive. [myad]