In the early hours of June 6, 2014, armed soldiers in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory and Warri in Delta State, South-south Nigeria, impounded the distribution vans of two dailies: “Leadership” and “The Nation” newspapers and confiscated the day’s edition of the newspapers meant for several locations. The soldiers claimed that they were acting on orders from their superiors.
In the Abuja incident, soldiers mounting a roadblock close to the entrance to Abuja along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway intercepted the Leadership newspaper’s van heading to Kaduna, North-west Nigeria and confiscated the entire consignment of the paper meant for North-west.
Azubike Ishiekwene, managing director of the Leadership Group of Newspapers, said the driver of the vehicle and another staff of the newspaper company were detained, with their cell phones seized. He added that another consignment of the newspaper meant to be flown to states in the South-east was also confiscated by authorities at the Abuja airport.
Patrick Ochoga, the Edo state correspondent of the newspaper in Benin City, the Edo State capital, also said that the consignment of the newspaper heading to Kogi and Edo states was also intercepted and seized by soldiers in Kontagora.
Similarly, reports said soldiers of the 3 Battalion of the Nigerian Army at Okwuokoko in Delta State intercepted several distribution vans conveying The Nation mewspapers to various stations in the South-south and other parts of the country. All copies of the day’s edition of The Nation newspaper were also seized.
Another detachment of troops stormed The Nation’s circulation depot located in Effurun, Delta State, in search of the newspapers and the company’s staff.
Reports said a detachment of soldiers condoned off the Edo State office of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Benin City, seizing all copies of Leadership and The Nation newspapers from newspaper vendors.
Both newspapers are owned by members of the opposition political party, All Progressives’ Congress (APC).
The Defence Headquarters later confirmed that troops were given directives to search newspaper distribution vans for “materials with grave security implications,” saying it “was a routine security action and should not be misconstrued for any other motive.”
The Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, said in a statement that “The military appreciates and indeed respects the role of the media as an indispensable partner in the ongoing counter-insurgency operation and the overall advancement of our country’s democratic credentials. As such, the military will not deliberately and without cause, infringe on the freedom of the press.”
Saying that “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 it is being wrongly imputed by a section of the press”, he stressed that “The general public and the affected media organizations in particular are assured that the exercise was a routine security action and should not be misconstrued for any other motive.”