By Ikora Ayungbe,Uyo
Newspaper vendors, under the auspices Akwa Ibom State Newspapers Vendors Association on Thursday stormed the Correspondents’ Chapel Secretariat in Uyo to protest alleged assault, harassment and intimidation of its members by government revenue officials in the state.
The newspaper vendors who operate around Ibom Plaza, a central business hub in Uyo, complained that they were usually beaten and harassed on regular basis by the Ibom Plaza Management revenue officials.
The chairman of the Association, Otobong Udofia, who spoke on behalf of the vendors, accused the management of harassing his members on daily basis adding that efforts to stop the assault and molestation had failed.
“The management of Ibom Plaza has been coming to harass our members on daily basis, so we don’t understand what our status in the state is. If the government doesn’t want us to be in the state, they should let us know.
“When they come, they demand money saying we are the cause of people coming there to steal.”
“We insisted and said that, by right, vendors cannot not pay a fee of N2000 monthly demanded by the management because our commission is only N40.00 and before you are able to get a plate of food for N200 you would have walked around Uyo metropolis.
“A lot of people have been reading papers online; papers don’t sell again and before we labour to sell one thousand a day, we will go round the whole of Uyo. We have been supporting the government wand wonder why government is against us.
“We don’t sell up to N2000 so it will be difficult for us to raise N2000 and pay, we eat from the amount and we pay transport and rent from there. When they come they harassed our members and they will run way and many papers have been reported missing.
A member of the board of directors of the association, Mr. Ngadi Chidiebere, called on the government to come to the aid of the vendors by stopping the unnecessary harassment by its agents adding that vendors have incurred massive loss as result of the harassment and destruction of the business today.
However, the chairman of the Ibom Plaza Management, Ima Umoh, denied alleged harassments of vendor by his members. He, however, said the idea was to sanitise the place against hoodlums and we asked them not display their papers because, by so doing, they attract hoodlums. “We had issues; their leaders came and we have settled. They should go back and sell their papers”.
The state commissioner for information and strategy, Mr Charles Udoh, who could not confirm the incident, said, “Gov. Udom Emmanuel administration is determined to attract development and will not do anything otherwise”.