Tony John, Port Harcourt
Members of the Rivers State chapter of the Print Media Sales Representatives Association of Nigeria have raised complaints about repeated police brutality amid the coronavirus crisis.
The president of the association in the state, Chris Ali, alleged inhumane treatment meted out to their members by the police, despite federal and state governments’ exemption of media agents on essential duties.
Ali claimed that on several occasions their members and vendors had to abandon their newspapers and scamper for safety when armed policemen storm their distribution centre commonly called ‘Bush Market’ in Mile 1, Port Harcourt.
“The manner and approach the Nigeria Police, Rivers State, go about matters that concern the Print Media Sales Representatives Association of Nigeria, and the Newspapers Distribution Association of Nigeria, Rivers State chapter, are destructive and unacceptable,” he said.
“In several encounters, where the state government has to engage the Nigeria Police to enforce executive order, we have always been victims of opportunists in the force, who are always bent on exploiting the situation.
“In this period of COVID-19 challenges, we have enlightened our members on the instructions by the federal and state governments and ensured that there is compliance,” Ali stated.
He said it would be counter-productive if members of the public are denied information, particularly at a time of pandemic.
The group further explained that, in some cases, it has taken the timely intervention of the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) to get them out of the hook, sometimes with damages sustained.
The members, however, appealed to the Rivers State government and security agencies to prevail on the police against frequent attacks on the media by their personnel in the state.