Nigeria’s Police Force says it has disbanded its Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in response to a wave of protests online and in the streets of the African nation this week decrying the unit as an arm of corruption and rampant police brutality.
Inspector general of Nigeria’s police, Muhammad Amadu, said in a live broadcast on Sunday that the squad has been abolished with immediate effect, reports Al Jazeera news.
But the announcement outlined that SARS officers would be re-deployed to other units in Nigeria’s police force, prompting further concerns from protestors who’ve spent the past few days calling out the impunity of cops in the squad, who they say routinely carry out criminal activities.
On Twitter, thousands used the hashtag #EndSARS to share stories of being apprehended by SARS officers—ostensibly tasked with protecting civilians from armed robbers—who threatened and extorted them, including by forcing them to withdraw their money at ATMs and hand it over or be killed.
That Sars guy hitting me with his rifle is still something I can never get out of my head, broke the screen of my phone, took me to the Atm, had to withdraw everything I had and he slapped me. Those guys are evil, a representation of what Nigeria has become.
— ELNALOBOMO (@_Deleinko) October 9, 2020
Same here for me in 2018, checked my account balance at yaba. I was going to get parts for my car at lawanson. They took me to the atm close to Bola tinubu police building, I paid a sum of 100k to spare my life.
— Balogun/ General Contractor (@mrlobalova) October 9, 2020
Nigerian women also spoke of being sexually harassed and assaulted by SARS officers:
I remember when SARS in surulere wanted to arrest me at night for having more than 2 ATM cards, the leader proceeded to put his hands in my breast claiming to do search and threatened to deal with me if I didn’t let him go through my work laptop and access my files. #EndSARS
— tosin (@thezuko_) October 10, 2020
And there were reports of brutal violence by the officers against civilians:
— Amnesty Int. Nigeria (@AmnestyNigeria) October 9, 2020
Young people launched protests across Nigeria to #EndSARS this week, and similar demonstrations followed in cities where many members of Nigeria’s diaspora reside, like London (where Afrobeat performer WizKid was spotted), Toronto, and Berlin.
In Nigeria, SARS officers forcefully responded to the demonstrators by deploying teargas and gunfire, reportedly killing a young man named Jimoh Ishaq according to Concise News Nigeria.
— We are all Jimoh Isiaq (@I_Am_Ilemona) October 11, 2020
— /Raei/ 🕊🦍 (@baaleofabuja) October 9, 2020
— Nigeria Customs Broadcasting Network (@ncbn_ng) October 11, 2020
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said on Friday that he is “being briefed regularly on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct, and ensure that the Police are fully accountable to the people.”
“I appeal for patience & calm, even as Nigerians freely exercise their right to peacefully make their views known,” Buhari added.
Despite the announcement from Nigeria’s police chief that SARS has been dissolved, protestors in Abuja said on Sunday that police were still firing live bullets and tear gas at them in the streets.
— Omoyele Sowore (@YeleSowore) October 11, 2020
The images are a reminder that brutal state violence is a global reality, and underscore the similarities in the struggle against unjust systems by the global Black community in 2020—whether in the United States of America or in Nigeria.