Nigeria dissolves controversial police force after days of protests

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The Nigerian police announced in a statement on Sunday that the controversial anti-theft unit of the police, the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), was immediately canceled. Nigerians have been demonstrating an end to the police unit days before after SARS agents may have been involved in the death of a man in the Nigerian state of Delta.

Video prompt for demonstrations

Adamu Mohammed of the national police said this Sunday afternoon at a press conference in capital Abuja, Nigerian report media.

Mohammed promises to set up a replacement unit to replace the SARS. Incidentally, the current agents of that unit will not be fired, but transferred within the force.

The SARS unit has for years been accused of unjustified controls, kidnapping, robbery and excessive violence. For example, SARS officers would be allowed to view people’s telephones without giving a reason if they suspect involvement in a crime. After this, people are sometimes unfairly detained or blackmailed to transfer large amounts of money.

Mohammed also said on Sunday that he will be investigating reports of armed robbery and violence by agents of the unit.

Demonstrators accuse the SARS unit of violence and robbing civilians. (Photo: ANP)

Protesters took to the streets last week after a video surfaced showing SARS agents possibly involved in the violent death of a man. Police say this video was fake, but protesters didn’t believe it.

The demonstrations soon became more about police brutality in general and demonstrations started in many places in Nigeria.

The demonstrators, mainly young people, called on each other via social media to participate via the hashtag endSARS. In other African countries, including Namibia, protesters also took to the streets to demonstrate against police violence.

The police took tough action against the demonstrators on Saturday, including with tear gas. It is not clear exactly how many protesters attended the demonstrations. Al Jazeera reports that on Thursday in the southern city of Ughelli at least one police officer and one demonstrator were killed in a demonstration.

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