SOME Federal Road Service Commission (FRSC) officers on Monday, September 18, attacked Mustapha Usman, a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), near the Corps’ Zone 7 office in Abuja.
They beat up and confiscated the reporter’s identification card while he was trying to report an incident involving the officers at the Wuye Junction in the nation’s capital.
The officials had accused a woman of violating traffic laws near the Wuye Bridge, currently under construction.
The reporter saw the officers forcefully grabbing the steering wheel from the woman after they had stopped her.
When they failed to take over the steering from her, they deflated her car tyres, prompting Mustapha to video the incident.
As soon as the officers sighted the reporter, they ran after him, pounced on him, beat him up and collected his identity card.
They alleged the woman was arrested for using her phone to check Google Maps while driving.
However, the woman, who introduced herself as Esther Oluwatimileyin, claimed she became confused about the direction to take due to the ongoing bridge construction, which had recently led to the blockage of a section of the road and diversion.
“I was trying to explain the situation to them (the personnel) that I didn’t know they had blocked that road,” she said.
“I was trying to navigate from this place, and I raised my phone to look at the map because I was using Google Maps from where I came from. The next thing was that they started bursting my tyres,” she explained.
While recounting his ordeal, Mustapha said he was passing by when he observed the officers surrounding the woman’s car.
“I got closer and noticed that officers were already forcibly taking control of the steering wheel from her. Other officers were surrounding her car, and they later deflated her car tyres,” he said.
He added: “I was watching closely, and I tried to record the event on video”.
He added, “When the situation became intense, one of the officers came to disperse the crowd. They also attempted to pull me away, but I made them understand I was a journalist. I showed them my ID card, but they didn’t pay attention.
“They started slapping me. About five of them surrounded and attacked me. I can’t even recall exactly how many of them beat me because it was close to their office, and there were many. I was retrieving my ID card from the floor when one hit me and took it away.”
Among the officers at the scene are ‘Saliu’ and ‘M. Yahaya’. The remaining officers wore white vests.
The officers took Mustapha’s ID card to their office and held it for over two hours. They insisted that he delete the recordings on his phone and apologise for recording them while they were performing their duties.
Mustapha later sent a message to the Corps spokesperson Bizi Kazeem. He directed him to the sector commander, who subsequently ordered the release of his ID card.
Reacting to the incident, the sector commander, Muta Chorrie, blamed the reporter for recording the officers “while doing their job”, describing what he did as disrespectful and malicious.
He accused Esther of violating the traffic law by using her phone to check Google Maps while driving. He also accused her of insulting his officers, making them deflate her car’s tyre.
Contrary to Chorrie’s claim that the reporter was in the wrong, the officers are public officials wearing paraphernalia that identifies them as such and carrying out an activity at a public place.
Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in the society. You can shoot him a scoop via firstname.lastname@example.org and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.