Police disbands Special Anti-Robbery Squad with immediate effect, prompted by days of protests across the country against alleged brutality by its members.

Nigerians take part in a protest against violence, extortion and harassment from Nigeria's Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Lagos, Nigeria October 11, 2020.
Nigerians take part in a protest against violence, extortion and harassment from Nigeria's Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Lagos, Nigeria October 11, 2020. (Reuters)

Nigeria has dissolved a special police unit after public protests alleging brutality and will launch an investigation into its activities, the presidency announced.

"The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force ... has been dissolved WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT," said a tweet from the Nigerian presidency on Sunday.

"The dissolution of SARS is in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people," a police statement said.

This comes following a report by Amnesty International, released in June, that said SARS members used "torture and other ill-treatment to execute, punish and extract information from suspects." 

The human rights organisation, which documented 82 cases between January 2017 and May 2020, found that the group targeted by the officers were young men between the ages of 17 and 30 "from low-income backgrounds and vulnerable groups."

The Nigerian Police Force announced in a tweet an investigation into allegations "of crimes committed against citizens", adding "the culprits will be punished."

READ MORE: Nigerians unite against an extremely brutal police unit

Protests to end SARS

Although the unit has been in existence for decades, it wasn't until three years ago that it began to face huge scrutiny for its extreme behaviour.

On October 3, a horrific video showed SARS officers dragging two young men from a hotel in Lagos and executing one of them in the street. 

The footage, which was taken by visitors at a hotel and shared on social media, fuelled anger propelled many more stories across the country on brutality and extortion by officers from SARS, notorious for human rights abuses.

READ MORE: In Nigeria, dissent is curbed with brute force

#EndSARS

On Saturday, Nigerian police used tear gas to disperse dozens of people in the capital Abuja who had gathered to protest the alleged brutality by members of a special police unit, witnesses said.

A few days earlier on Thursday, one protestor and one police officer were killed while another sustained life-threatening injuries during a protest in the southern town of Ughelli, Hafiz Inuwa, Delta State Commissioner of Police said, adding that nine suspects had been arrested.

The hashtag #EndSARS was the most trending topic on Twitter on Friday.

READ MORE: Nigerians protesting police brutality met with tear gas

Source: AFP