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Nigeria governor promises action against ‘rogue’ SARS police unit

The governor of Nigeria’s Lagos State has pledged to take action against a notorious police unit which has been widely accused of committing human rights abuses. 

Babajide Sanwo-Olu said he was very worried about reports of unlawful exploitation by officers from the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).

Videos shared on social media appear to show officers extorting money and even shooting people.

Nigerians want the unit disbanded.

The hashtag #EndSARS is trending on Twitter triggered by the alleged killing of a young man by SARS officers in the city of Lagos on Saturday.

Many people are also using the hashtag to share stories of brutality attributed to the police unit.

Three years ago Nigeria’s police chief ordered an immediate re-organisation of the SARS after another social media outcry.

But an investigation by rights group Amnesty International, released in June, found that SARS members continue to use “torture and other ill-treatment to execute, punish and extract information from suspects”.

It documented 82 cases between January 2017 and May 2020.

Amnesty found that the group targeted by the officers were young men between the ages of 17 and 30.

“Young men with dreadlocks, ripped jeans, tattoos, flashy cars or expensive gadgets are frequently targeted by SARS,” the organisation said.

“The Nigerian authorities must go beyond lip service and ensure there is real reform, ” Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria said about the findings.

Lagos governor Sanwo-Olu tweeted on Sunday: “Appropriate actions will be taken, and speedily too”.

SARS comes under Nigeria’s federal police, so it’s not clear if the governor has the power to rein in the much criticised unit.

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