This image was taken in 2016 during an enforcement campaign against jaywalking in Nigeria

Copyright AFP 2017-2021. All rights reserved.

An image of a man being detained by Nigerian police, none of whom are wearing masks, has been shared multiple times on Facebook and Instagram alongside claims that it shows officers arresting a face-mask seller for failing to wear a mask in accordance with Covid-19 regulations. However, this is false; the image dates back to 2016, years before the pandemic started, and depicts a government crackdown on jaywalking in Lagos.

A screenshot shared here on Instagram shows two police officers from Nigeria’s Rapid Response Squad (RRS) apprehending a man in the street. 

“A face mask seller was arrested for not wearing a face mask by policemen who were not wearing face masks,” reads the image text, before asking: “Who did we offend in Nigeria?”

A February 16, 2021 screenshot showing the false post

The same screenshot has also been shared on Facebook here, here and here

The claim originated from a blog post by MMSPlus, a website in Nigeria that publishes content about business sectors like the maritime industry, energy, oil and gas, and finance.

“What an irony!” reads the blog post from May 17, 2020. “Are police officers immune to Covid-19? If police officers can flout the directive on face masks, why can’t this mask seller do the same?”

Face masks are compulsory in public and the Nigerian government has set up mobile courts to prosecute people who break the law.

However, the claim, which has resurfaced nine months later, is false and uses the image out of context.

Picture predates pandemic

AFP Fact Check cropped the text from the claim image and ran the picture through a reverse image search.

This led us to online reports, the earliest of which was published in April 2016  three years before the coronavirus was discovered. The picture was part of a photo essay by Legit, a news site in Nigeria, on the enforcement of the use of pedestrian bridges across the Ikorodu Road in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

A screenshot of an online article from April 2016 with the featured image

We checked Google Maps and found that the street in the photo shows part of Ikorodu Road

At the time, the Lagos state government made the use of pedestrian bridges compulsory, leading to long queues in the city of more than 21 million people, as reported here and here by local media. 

COVID-19