REPORTER’S DIARY: ‘I’ll Kill You, Nothing Will Happen’— How Police Officer Threatened Me For Filming ‘Secret Raid’ On BDC Operators In Abuja

Who would have imagined that a ride intended for the AEDC headquarters on February 21, would redirect me to an unpleasant location — one I am grappling to erase as I recall with each passing moment how a police officer cocked a gun to my neck for daring to do my job....READ FULL ARTICLE

The memory of being slapped by officers of the Nigeria Police, and sandwiched between two female officers in multi, who assaulted and threatened my life while in a police Hilux keeps flashing on my mind.

I was going to AEDC when I observed a chaotic movement of men dressed in kaftans running towards the junction at zone 4, and scampering for safety.

I also observed operatives of the police force chasing the men, whom I would subsequently identify as the BDC operators. The situation incited unusual traffic around the Zone 4 junction.

I observed that two police Hiluxes barricaded the road and prevented people coming from the central area, and those heading to the Abuja Continental Hotel (Formerly Sheraton Abuja, Hotel).

I concluded there was more to this. So, I was determined to find out. The journalist in me was telling me to pursue the story!
One of the Police Hilux vehicles blocking the area had the Nigeria Police Force RRS (Rapid Response Squad) inscribed on it.

A female trader who took note of the time the raid started, told me upon enquiry that the Police came on a raid on the BDC operators in the area.

I observed the operatives, including police officers (men and women) and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), forcefully arrested and pushed some BDC operators into Black Marias regardless of their age.

Those found in their cars around the area were forcefully pulled out as well and taken to the parked vans. This was newsworthy, considering the recent raid on traders on Monday by the EFCC.

“Catch that one, he is a bloody dollar man,” I heard one of the officers say, pointing in the direction of a light-skinned BDC operator running away from the scene to escape arrest. An officer got hold of him after he missed his steps and landed in a gutter.

What’s A Journalist Doing Here?

I didn’t see any journalists around the area, so it was like the raid was off-the-book. I later confirmed this. The raid was not supposed to get to the public. But there I was, a young journalist who chanced on the event, ready to film the raid.

While mentally documenting the events, a 6-foot dark man clad in police camouflage approached me, wondering why I was keen on the activities of the raid. His uniform neither had a badge nor his name engraved on it.

He wrapped a fist around my left hand and checked my press Identification (ID) card and upon seeing my ID, released his grip saying, “Ah na journalist oo”.

At this point, I properly identified myself and asked to speak to the officer in charge of the operation. The officers there pointed to an officer dressed in a deep green uniform, black belt, and a black boot with a red beret.

While approaching him, the officer who earlier held me by my hands alerted him that I was a journalist, and he (the supposed officer in charge) immediately covered his name tag.

“Journalist who tipped you off this raid? Why are you here? This is a top raid and you are the only journalist here, did the BDC guys tip you,”` the officer asked.

I disclosed that I was on an assignment and my final destination was on the axis, but the raid on the BDC operators was one I couldn’t ignore as a journalist.

Formerly seeking permission to make videos, he replied, “Don’t take any video now, the raid will soon be over and you can film once we are living.” I complied.

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At that moment, the time was precisely 11:30 am, and what was about to happen to me was my scariest experience ever.

While lifting my phone to film as instructed, a female officer dressed in mufti raised her voice, demanding who I was.

“Why are you holding a phone? Who are you? Why are you close to the van,” she asked. Responding to her, the officer standing beside me said, “She’s a journalist and she has her Identification Card.”

Dissatisfied by the feedback, she continued, “What journalist? This one came to sell dollars, she is one of them.”

Without giving me a chance to identify myself, which I struggled to do eventually, she immediately pulled out my bag containing my laptop and slapped me so hard that I lost every ounce of composure I had.

She pulled me by my trousers and dragged me to one of the police Hilux vehicles. The officers in mufti and those in uniforms, surrounded me and began to yell at me.

The female officer who slapped me struggled with me to confiscate my phone while a male officer in a black uniform hit my hand with a rifle.

Amid the bizarre situation, an average-height officer whom I would subsequently identify as Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Bimbo, the Commander of Anti-Violence Crime Unit of the Federal Capital Command (FCT) told the woman to release my hand and then proceeded to ask who I was.

The female officer, however, responded, “Oga she said she is a journalist oo!” He asked me to show him my ID, and thereafter Instructed me to “get on the van, we are going to our office.”

When I asked why, he said, “Do as I say, if I leave here, you won’t like what these officers will do to you!” He then signalled the furious female officer who pulled me by the neck into the van.

Order From Above

Right in the van were two male officers in police camouflage while I was left in the middle of the female officers who kept struggling to take my phone.

“You sure say na woman be this, the way she take hold this phone tight, e be like man o, madam confirm,” one of the officers in front said. The female officer would then squeeze my left bosom and confirm I am female.

Suddenly, the officer who inquired if I was a woman, cocked his rifle and pointed it at my throat, yelling “release this phone or I’ll kill you and nothing will happen”.

One of the female officers would then hit my hand, causing the phone to fall off my hands to the floor of the vehicle.

The journey later continued in silence. Then my phone rang, but the officers refused me to pick. I had been with them for 25 minutes and had yet to inform my organisation of the development.

Despite my pleas to inform someone of my situation, the officers said I would respond to my calls when we arrived at our final destination.

Detained As Suspect

When we arrived at this destination, which I would later confirm to be the Anti-Violence and Crime Unit of the FCT Police Command, DCP Bimpo ordered the officers to add me to the long queue of the arrested BDC operators.

We were subsequently asked to sit on the floor like suspects, with our hands resting on our legs. I was the only female, among the 59 males arrested in my batch.

The officers, still holding onto my phone, ordered me to stand up to delete all videos and pictures taken from the scene, but I refused. The officers thereafter, made failed attempts to unlock my phone, which required Face Identification authentication.

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Frustrated by my obstinate determination to keep the footage, two officers in mufti pushed me in front of the admin’s office, while another held my knee from behind and forced me to collapse on my knee.

An officer folded my hands to the back, and another held me by my neck to unlock my phone. They successfully placed the phone to my face, and unlocked my phone, giving them access to my gallery where all visuals relating to the raid operation were deleted even from the recycle bin of the phone.

An officer, whom I will later identify as the FCT Deputy Commissioner Operation (DC OPs) further asked the officers to ‘confiscate the dollar in my bag.’

“Sergeant, search that bag and tell me how much dollars is in there,” I heard the DC Ops yelling. The officers by this time had their gaze on me, while also filming the process. I thought they were expecting to find what I suppose would be used to change the narrative of my presence at the raid.

“Oga no dollar here, just laptop, the charger, a pair of black slippers and money,” the officer responded. Disappointed with the feedback, he ordered a thorough search on the bag again, and the feedback remained the same, “Oga dollar no dey,”.

It was at that moment I regained freedom from their grip.

At this point, DCP Bimpo immediately ordered the officers to get on the van for a second operation, and they drove over to Zone 4, for another batch.

Back at the Unit, my belongings were recorded as exhibits, and I was not treated any differently from the BDC operators who at the time were being profiled.

When DCP Bimbo returned with the next batch, the numbers were less than 59. However, when the officers did a headcount of the total number of arrests, it was about 96, including me.

The commander would later instruct the officers to capture the BDC operators in video footage. But when he looked in my direction, he said, “Go and sit at the back”.

At the time, it was 1:14 pm, and I had not reached out to anyone about my plight, but with the help of some BDC operators who shielded me, I was able to pick up my phone to contact my organisation.

I hurriedly sent my live location, images of myself and others and a series of WhatsApp voice notes messages.

While holding on to my phone, at 3:22 pm, my colleague informed me they were outside the Anti-Violence Crime unit, but they were denied access while assuring me of my safety.

This time, my phone battery was low, and I was frightened because it was the only hope and means of security and communication.

“Aunty journalist, ” a masculine voice echoed from the admin office. “Come here.” I rose to my feet and walked into his office. He pointed to a pen, saying, “As a journalist, you should be able to write and pen down your statement.”.

“Why should I write a statement, what is my offence?”

“This statement will exonerate you, I’m trying to help you. Nobody knows you are here, nobody has come to help you. If you write this statement, I will find a way to speak to the commander,” the officer told me.

Reiterating my stand I said, “I won’t write any statement without a lawyer, moreover my colleagues are at the gate and you have refused them entry.”

Sitting upright he said, “What colleague, who told you they are here, if you don’t want to cooperate then get out.”

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Walking back to my position on the floor, I saw DCP Bimbo heading towards the gate. A few minutes later he returned asking me different questions.

“Who did you say is your boss? What is your media name? What is your name? Who tipped you off the raid and who authorised you to be at a sensitive raid that morning?”

Replying to all the questions, I said, “My name is Kasarahchi Aniagolu from THE WHISTLER newspaper, I was heading to work when I sighted the raid at zone 4.”

I further told him I took permission from one of his officers before taking video footage at the scene of the raid.

“I am in charge of that raid, no one could have authorised you without my consent,” DCP Bimpo replied. “You are too stubborn, he said while walking away.

At 4 pm, my phone battery was 2 percent, and I was yet to get positive feedback from my colleagues. I became scared, and my heart started to beat faster. I was uncertain of my fate and I could no longer find the strength to be strong.

I found strength in my tears, but the BDC operators, speaking in Hausa, encouraged me. At the time, my phone had gone off, and I had no idea of what time it was.

While lost in thought, the officer who asked me to write a statement came to me and said, “How did you know your colleagues are at the gate?” I didn’t respond.

He then checked my bag and was surprised not to find my phone in it. He moved towards me and said, “Give me back the phone!”. He pulled me forcefully by the hands, causing me to lose grip of my phone. The phone fell and he seized it.

My Release

Having sat for hours, without water or food, I stood up and walked to a woman selling within the premises and got a bottle of water. DCP Bimbo saw me and directed his secretary, named Gloria, to “take care” of me.

Gloria took me into the office, and I asked her what time it was, and she responded, “5:45 pm”.

I would later find out from my colleagues that it was about the same time they were meeting with the Police Force Spokesperson, ACP Muiyiwa Adejobi who was working on the situation.

Meanwhile, a few minutes later, DCP Bimbo came into the office with a male videographer who I later found out was contracted to cover the operation. He was holding two Compact Discs (CDs) of the coverage.

While the office became busy with men in Kaftan clustering around, enquiring about certain people who had been earlier arrested during the raid, DCP Bimbo’s phone rang.

At this time, it was 7 pm. He asked me, “Are you Kasarahchi ANIAGOLU?” I said, yes. He continued on the call, “No sir, she is sitting in my office and we made sure she’s comfortable,” he responded to the other caller.

When the call ended, DCP Bimbo said to me, “Young girl, you have a bright future before you”. He later instructed that my items be released and the papers for my release be made available.

When I came out of his office, DCP Bimbo handed his phone to me, and the caller asked, “Ms Kasarahchi, have your items been released to you?” I replied, affirming it had been released.

He then said, “I am sorry about today, please you are free to go”, and the call ended. So, I walked again into freedom after about 8 hours in detention.…READ FULL ARTICLE

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