The Nigerian government on Sunday dissolved a special police unit set up to fight violent crimes following days of protests across the country against alleged brutality by the controversial unit, reported Reuters.
The protests erupted after a video circulated last week allegedly showing members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) shooting dead a man, named as Jimoh Isiaka, in Delta state. The video resulted a globally-trending social media campaign to dissolve the squad.
Thousands of people have used the #EndSARS hashtag online to share stories alleging extortion, torture, disappearances, and even murders at the hands of members of the unit since the video surfaced online.
The president’s office and the Nigeria Police Force announced the dissolution of the police unit with immediate effect.
“IGP M.A Adamu … has today, 11th October 2020, dissolved the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) across the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),” a statement from police spokesman Frank Mba said.
Mba added that all SARS officers are being redeployed with immediate effect.
“The dissolution of SARS is in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people,” the police statement said.
It also announced an investigation into allegations of crimes committed against Nigerian citizens, adding that the culprits will be punished. It said that the investigation will involve human rights groups and civil society organizations, adding that former SARS officers are to be redeployed into other units. The statement also said that a mechanism would be set up to prevent future abuse.
But, mere hours after the announcement, there were reports of protesters being arrested, while a handful of demonstrators in Abuja were forcefully dislodged with water cannons by police officers.
An Amnesty International report released in June reported 82 alleged cases of SARS mistreating, torturing, and extra-judicially executing detainees. It said that the abuses were carried out under the supervision of high-ranking officers.