On Tuesday, August 20, 2013, I went to Okokomaiko area of Lagos State, where a policeman allegedly shot and killed a resident, Adamson Bello.
By 12.20pm, I had concluded interviews with Adamson’s widow and mother of his seven children, Modinatu Bello; three residents, and the Baale of the area.
I decided to also speak with a representative of a hotel which was named in my findings- South Bound Hotel. The killer cop was said to be on guard duty at the hotel.
On the way to the hotel, I decided to take the pictures of some points where the incident happened. I took the picture of the hotel, and decided to speak with another resident. He showed me the traces of blood where the deceased had reportedly slumped.
I was listening to the man’s account when three men emerged and grabbed me from the back.
Two were of average heights while one was elderly. I later understood that one of them was the General Manager, while the other two were departmental managers in the hotel.
They dragged me into the hotel where I identified myself as a reporter and demanded to speak with the Public Relations Officer of the company.
They became hostile and accused me of taking pictures of the area and the hotel without permission. They later decided to take me to the Okokomaiko Police Division.
Around 12.34pm, I was taken to the police station.
When we got to the station, the Divisional Police Officer, Temple Ituma, was said to be busy. I was taken before the Divisional Crime Officer.
After the hotel’s employees repeated the allegations, the DCO asked me to introduce myself.
I did and showed him my PUNCH identity card.
The DCO said I had breached the privacy of the hotel. As I tried to explain my side of the story, the DCO shouted me down and called me “idiot, stupid.” He continued to do this during my stay in his office. I was not given any chance to talk.
About 12.50pm, I was taken before the DPO, who queried me on my mission in the area. I told him I was a correspondent with The PUNCH and was doing an investigative report.
He said, “You are a reporter and you just went to a person’s building and started taking pictures. Did the person ask you to report his building? This is an action that somebody can use to claim big money against you.”
He asked me to delete the pictures; I declined, saying I had done nothing wrong.
I was then told that I was under arrest for breaching the privacy of the hotel and taking pictures without permission.
A plump, fair-complexion man emerged and took my bag, searched it, and collected my phones.
At this point, I asked for the permission to speak with my editor, but I was denied.
I was taken into an office where the policeman began quizzing me on the incident.
I told him about my investigation, explaining that I was on my way to see the hotel’s PRO when I was abducted by the employees.
I explained that I had the right to take the pictures because the story was a matter of public interest.
Around 1.20pm, the DPO walked in and said the owner of the property wanted the matter to be taken to the court.
The DCO, who followed his boss, said, “You are lucky that you met my boss who is a Reverend. If it was me, I would have dealt with you.”
At this point, the policemen collected my ID card and threatened that I would be taken into the cell if I “misbehaved.”
I was led to a dimly lit room to make my statement. The lady who went with me, however, did not give me any paper.
Around 1.40pm, I was taken to another room and asked to write my statement. I again requested to speak with my editor. Again, I was refused.
I made my statement. A policeman asked me to write down the identities of my sources and the people I had interviewed. I declined, saying it was unethical.
At 1.56pm, the DPO came in again and gave me his telephone. I spoke with a known senior officer from the state command’s headquarters.
He said he had spoken with my office, and asked that I deleted the pictures.
The DPO however said, even if the pictures were deleted, the owner of the company would need to consent before he would leave me.
At 2.43pm, the DPO said the owner had agreed to withdraw the matter from the court on the condition that I delete the pictures and did not return to the area.
I was asked to write an undertaking not to come near the hotel, which I did.
At 2.48pm, the pictures were deleted and I was taken back to the DPO. The DPO said my phone and camera should be taken from me again, adding that he was going out for a meeting and would call from the meeting when I should be released.
A few minutes to 7pm, the DPO, DCO and one person came back from the meeting
The DPO then told his men to let me go.