Lagos, Nigeria – Tunde Abass says he was in a plaza building at Onipanu, a major bus stop in Lagos, in March when he saw police officers harass a family in their car near a police station.
The private vehicle’s windows were tinted, something that required a police permit. The driver produced the necessary documents but the officers insisted the family step out of the car to be questioned. Abass, a 34-year-old project manager, then took out his phone to record the incident on Facebook Live.
“I was just observing from a distance because it was not my business. But what triggered my interference was when the policemen tried to deflate the tyres and force the key out of the ignition. In the process, the baby in the car almost slipped from the woman’s hand into a nearby drainage,” Abass told Al Jazeera.
When the divisional police officer, the head of a police station in Nigeria, caught the sight of Abass recording, he ordered his arrest.
That was on March 20, nearly six months after thousands of young Nigerians first took to the streets to protest against police brutality and demand the closure of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit notorious for alleged abuses, illegal detention, profiling, extortion and even extrajudicial killings.
Mobilised through social media, the #EndSARS protests shook Nigerian cities for days in October 2020. The government was forced to scrap the unit on October 11 but demonstrators remained in the streets, demanding wider reforms, until the protests came to an abrupt end after 10 people were shot and killed on October 20 at Lekki tollgate in Lagos.