Thugs numbering over 10 and accompanied by four gun-wielding policemen from the Central Police Station, Aba, last Friday, raided the Aba office of The Sun Newspaper, under the guise of collecting phantom levies for the Aba South Local Government Area, in Abia State.
This is even as the policemen that came with the thugs threatened to shoot a lady staff and broke into the office.
Some agents of the local government had last month brought some demand notices, which included that of advertisement and operational levies, among others.
According to the sales executive attached to the office, Mr. Dozie, when the demand notices were brought to the office, the agents were told to exercise patience that The Sun, as a corporate organisation, does not default in its civic duties, but that the company would first verify the genuineness of the levies, going by what has happened in the recent past.
In the course of investigation, however, it was discovered that it was only The Sun, of all the offices of media houses operating in Aba that was served the demand notices, an extreme case of selective and vindictive taxation.
While efforts were still being made to find out from officials of the council the veracity of the levies, since they were only targeted at The Sun, the thugs and policemen stormed the Aba office last Friday in a commando manner and threatened to shoot a lady staff in the office.
In the words of Dozie: “On Friday, last week, we had barely finished distributing newspapers to vendors and came into the office to strengthen our records when some fierce-looking men came knocking on the front door of our office in a terrifying manner.
“Initially, we thought they were armed robbers, but when the lady in the office looked through the door’s protector, the policemen who accompanied them shouted at the lady that she should open the door or they would shoot her.
“With such an order, the lady ran back to the inner office for fear of being shot and it was then that the invading thugs and the policemen attempted to force open the door but were unsuccessful.”
Dozie who said the men left with a warning to come back, wondered why the local government council would storm the office with thugs and policemen in such a manner when there was no court order served on them.
It was yet to be ascertained why, of all the offices of media houses in Aba, staff of The Sun were singled out to be harassed in the guise of phantom collections, even when no court summons was served on them.
The state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, in bid to rid Abia of thugs that had dented the image of the state, banned the use of thugs in the collection of all forms of taxes and levies.
Equally banned was the use of policemen to aid thugs in the collection of levies in the state.
Meanwhile, the Civil Liberty Organisation has reacted angrily to the invasion of The Sun’s office in Aba by Aba South Local Government thugs and the police.
Dr. Charles Chinekezi, chairman of CLO in Aba, said it has become worrisome the way the council engages the thugs and policemen to collect revenue, most of which were not backed by law.
“It is on record that Okezie Ikpeazu banned the use touts to collect revenue,” he said.
“It is equally on record that the immediate past commissioner of police while he was here stopped the use of policemen to collect revenue.