The Nigerian Presidency ordered the immediate dissolution of an elite anti-theft police unit, after several days of massive citizen protests against the brutality of its agents, accused of cases of harassment, torture, and even murder.
“The Special Anti-Theft Unit (SARS) of the Nigerian Police has been disbanded immediately,” the Presidency announced in a statement today.
Following this presidential directive, the Inspector General of the Police, Adamu Mohammed, immediately banned the operations and raids of the SARS in a press conference held this Sunday in the capital, Abuja.
The announcement comes after several days of massive protests in various cities and towns in Nigeria and even outside the country. Thousands of people have called for the reform and dismantling of this police unit, accused of arbitrary arrests, torture, and murder.
The Police have responded forcefully and tear gas to the demonstrations in several areas and have even shot and killed a person on Saturday who was near the protests in the city of Ogbomoso, in the southeast of the country.
#EndSARS (“End SARS”), the slogan with which the protests have been virtualized on social networks, is a request that has been made for several years in the country but has gained greater force after it came to light a video of the police murder of a young man in a police station in the area of the Niger Delta (southeast), which the Police deny is real.
A 2016 report by Amnesty International (AI) already warned of torture and inhumane treatment of detainees by SARS in an attempt to obtain confessions or extract information.
According to the organization, these methods included beatings, hangings, shooting in the legs, threats, and attempted execution, among other methods that violate human rights.
Amnesty again warned of these practices in 2020, claiming that “torture is routine in SARS investigation methods.”
The Nigerian government has repeatedly promised reforms in this unit. The president, Muhammadu Buhari, repeated on Friday, after a meeting with the police’s inspector general, his commitment to reform the SARS and “end police brutality and conduct unethical. “The promises have taken shape with the presidential directive issued today, which states that the SARS members will be reassigned, and new legislation will be enacted to prosecute and investigate the crimes and offenses committed.