On December 19, 2023, Mr. Godwin Tsa, a journalist with the Sun newspaper, was manhandled, beaten, arrested and detained by the personnel of the Department of Development Control at the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and the FCTA Task Force on the issuance of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) while he was covering a peaceful protest by mechanics and spare parts dealers in Abuja.
The protesters had initiated their demonstration in response to the demolition of over 50 shops even though the legal proceedings related to their case was still pending.
The FCTA personnel pounced on him and arrested him despite wearing his staff identity card on his neck. Although Mr. Tsa pleaded with them saying he was not part of the protesting group but merely performing his professional duties, his pleas fell on deaf ears. They arrested and drove him in a police Hilux pick-up truck, alongside some of the demonstrators, to the Utako police station. At the station, he was confined to a cell typically reserved for criminals.
During the assault on the defenseless journalist, some staff of the Department of Development Control implored that he be spared, recognizing that he was simply carrying out his journalistic responsibilities. However, their appeals were disregarded by certain overzealous personnel of the FCTA who continued to mistreat and assault him. A woman from the task force forcibly confiscated the journalist’s mobile phone, damaging its screen in the process.
He was detained for four hours during which time he was unable to contact his office, family members, or anyone else as his confiscated phone had not been returned. Upon the eventual return of his damaged phone, he was coerced into deleting all pictures and videos documenting the protest.
Recounting his ordeal after his release, Mr. Tsa said the protesters initially prevented him from covering the protest demanding that he identify himself before he would be allowed to record the protest.
He was eventually released from the police cell following the intervention of the Abuja Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).