On May 6, 2020, Mr. Abiodun Omotosho, a photojournalist with National Wire, an online news platform, was arrested by the Chief Security Officer of the Arena Market in the Oshodi area of Lagos for taking picture of traders displaying their wares in contravention of the time limit of 3pm specified by the Lagos State government for markets to close business as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The security officer took him to the gatehouse where one of them demanded N2,000. Abiodun told him be didn’t have that kind of money but eventually gave him N1,000. The photojournalist was asked to wait for the security man’s superior and about 20 minutes later, one of them identified as Moses came and interrogated him.
The interrogator warned him that if he didn’t want to be locked up at the military police guardroom, he should pay N100,000. But Abiodun told I told him he didn’t have much money and that moreover, he didn’t commit an offence taking pictures of people trading.
Narrating his ordeal further, he said they later brought a tricycle with which they conveyed him to the military police guardroom where he was locked up. He said that about 20 minutes later, an officer in mufti came and asked him a few questions and told them to handle him ‘the way it is supposed to be’ before he drove away. Thereupon, he was made to sit down until he collapsed.
At 4.26 pm, he had sent a text message to the official mobile line of his company to inform the office about his ordeal before he was moved from the Arena gatehouse to the guardroom. In the SMS, he simply said: “Hello house, the Army at the Ikeja Military Cantonment arrested me today that I was shooting the front of Arena Market at Oshodi. Pls call now.”
Shortly after he identified himself as a photojournalist working with National Wire, one Captain Lawal, Provost Officer of 9 Brigade ordered his identity card and camera to be seized while he was taken into military police detention facility at the Cantonment and all the pictures he had snapped were deleted from his camera.
The National Wire alerted theArmy Public Relations Officer, 9 Brigade, MajorKolawole Bello, who waded into the matter to save the day.
He was later dropped off at his home with an Army van at 10:45 pm.