Nigerian authorities must investigate and hold accountable the police officers who detained and assaulted journalist Kasarahchi Aniagolu, and ensure journalists can work without fear that they will be attacked or harassed while reporting the news.

Police officers detained, slapped, bodily assaulted, and hit Aniagolu with a gun. A reporter with the privately owned newspaper The Whistler, she was reporting on a police raid of a currency trading area in Wuse, a business hub in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on February 21, 2024, according to reports by privately owned news website Sahara Reporters and her outlet, and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ. 

“Nigerian authorities must hold accountable the police officers who detained, attacked, and harassed journalist Kasarahchi Aniagolu after she tried to report on a police raid in Abuja,” said CPJ Africa Program Head Angela Quintal from New York. “The officers’ behavior was doubly reprehensible as they are responsible for the safety of Nigerian citizens, including journalists.” 

Aniagolu was on a separate reporting assignment when she encountered the police raid and approached a male officer, showing her press identification, to request a formal interview, the journalist and Nnaemeka Wondrous, head of the law and judiciary desk at The Whistler, told CPJ by phone. The officer declined, and another nearby officer told Aniagolu to stop filming until the police were done, which she did. 

After about ten minutes, the officers began to leave, and Aniagolu again began to film and photograph the scene. A female officer noticed and approached Aniagolu, angrily asked who had given her permission to cover the incident, and slapped Aniagolu’s face; another officer hit her on the hand with their gun, and then the female officer dragged the journalist into a police van, according to those sources.

On their way to the station, a male officer questioned Aniagolu’s sex, reportedly saying, “Are you sure this is a girl? The way she is holding tightly to her phone seems like it’s a man,” Aniagolu told CPJ. A female officer sitting close to Aniagolu then used her hand to press on the journalist’s chest to confirm her sex and told the male officer that Aniagolu was female.

The male officer then pointed his gun at the journalist and threatened to shoot her if she did not give him her phone, boasting that he would “get away with murder” if he killed her, Aniagolu told CPJ, adding that she complied and gave her phone to the officers. 

After arriving at the station, two officers pushed the journalist onto her knees, held her hands, and used her face authentication to unlock her phone and delete pictures and videos of the raid, the journalist said. Officers then made her sit on the floor with around 60 men who were arrested during the raid.

Aniagolu said she was detained for eight hours, during which police officers searched her bag, accused her of visiting the currency trading site to illegally exchange U.S. dollars, questioned her about her outlet, and instructed her to write a statement about her arrest.

She told CPJ that she was released with all her belongings. When an officer handed her a phone before she left, someone on the other end apologized for her arrest and said she was free to leave.

Aniagolu told CPJ the incident was “traumatic,” and she continues to worry about the safety of herself and her family.

CPJ’s call and text messages to the Abuja police spokesperson, Josephine Adeh, for comment received no replies.