A Daily Trust columnist, Gimba Kakanda, was assaulted by police for protesting on Sunday in Abuja.
Kakanda, whose column, Beyond the Surface, appears in the Sunday edition of Daily Trust, told the newspaper that the attack was “traumatising” and a “close shave with death in the hands of the police”.
The protest has been on for days with citizens demanding the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which has come under criticism for human rights abuses, extortion, intimidation, harassment and killings.
Police had teargassed and used water cannon on a crowd of protesters marching from Unity Fountain toward the Force Headquarters on Sunday morning.
Minutes after the crowd was dispersed, Kakanda got a lift to return to the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to retrieve their cars.
“When we reached the first barricade and explained ourselves, they let us in. We didn’t know it was a ploy,” Kakanda told Daily Trust.
As the men reached for their vehicles, armed policemen accosted them with a barrage of questions.
"I tried to explain myself. At that time, I was on the phone with a friend who is a police officer himself. I was attempting to hand over my phone to the man talking to us when someone hit me hard with a stick from behind. They grabbed the phone and smashed it on the road.
“There were a number of vehicles there aside ours. But these policemen went on rampage immediately by using knives to tear as many tyres as they could. They destroyed three of my own. I was using my hands to protect my face and head and that was how they caused serious injuries on my hands.
“They dehumanised us as much as they could and kept boasting that they could have killed us and erased every trace of our existence.”
Kakanda identified the officer, who assaulted him as Mala B. Shehu, a one-star Assistant Superintendent of Police.
“The officer, an ASP, with the name tag “MB Shehu” was very hostile and was direct in his threats. He told us that we were lucky it was daytime that had it been it was at night they would have killed us.
“’I’ll waste you right now and nobody can do anything to me’,” Kakanda quoted the police officer saying.
He said the police officer ordered his subordinates to take the two activists into the headquarters for more beating before handing them over to SARS.
“He asked us why we didn’t go to protest at the SARS offices instead; when Ibrahim tried to explain that the Force headquarters was the right place for such action, they started slapping him again,” he added.