By Vincent Ujumadu

Awka- NEWSPAPER distributors in Awka, Anambra State Monday withdrew their services over frequent harassment, intimidation and extortion by officials of the controversial Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra State, alias OCHA Brigade.

As a result of the development, all newspapers brought to Awka for distribution to other towns around the Anambra State capital were heaped at the offices of the newspaper houses.

In a petition addressed to the Secretary to the Anambra State Government, SSG, Professor Solo Chukwudebelu, chairman of the distributors, Mr. Emeka Nweze and secretary, Mr. Ifeanyi Nwafor said they were constrained to write the petition to solicit government’s intervention in the matter, adding that they have been passing through difficult times in the hands of the officials of OCHA Brigade for a long time.

Their petition read: “Officials of the agency have been clamping down on our members, intimidating and harassing us at our various Newspapers’ sales spots/stands, and, even seizing the items we use in displaying our Newspapers. At times, they try to extort money from us. “Instructively, our various Newspapers’ sales spots/stands were designated and approved by an agency of the state government, the Anambra State Environmental Sanitation Agency (ANSEPA).

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“ Following the incessant clamp-down on our members, and, seizure of our sales items, especially tables and umbrellas, by the OCHA Brigade officials, we decided to visit the management of the agency at their office where we met the director, Mr. Douglas Okafor.

“After listening to our complaints, the director told us that it was wrong for the taskforce officials to seize our materials and that the agency does not normally disturb Newspaper vendors.

“He even promised to visit our Newspapers sales stands to make sure that we are in appropriate locations.

“We, however, became alarmed when he later told us that we have to pay for the cost the agency incurred to take photographs of our items seized and transported to their office. We did not think this demand was appropriate because we are convinced that we have not committed any offence. We feel sad that since then he has refused to release those items to us.”

According to the distributors, the action of the agency constitutes serious threat to their effort in ensuring proper information dissemination in the state.

Although the agency’s director promised to meet with the distributors, he failed to do so even after the intervention of the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba.



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