Nigeria: SARS overhaul is positive step but reforms must be robust
Responding to news that Nigeria’s Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has ordered an immediate overhaul of the country’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria Osai Ojigho said:
“This is an overdue yet hugely important move by Acting President Osinbajo. The growing outcry over the brutality of Nigeria’s notorious SARS police unit has finally got the attention of the country’s authorities.
“While this is positive news, it is crucial that any overhaul of SARS is far-reaching and immediately effective. Restructuring SARS is not enough unless the government takes concrete steps to protect Nigerians.
“The reform ordered by the Acting President must translate into ending the serious human rights violations, such as torture and extrajudicial executions, that SARS officers have been committing for years across Nigeria. That includes bringing to justice SARS officers found to have committed such atrocities.
“There is much compelling public evidence of human rights violations committed by SARS, some of it directly documented by Amnesty International, and this should now be used to aid an effective investigation into the unit’s crimes.
“The special panel convened to investigate SARS must be independent and impartial. Its aims can only be achieved if victims are given time and protection to present their cases.”
In September 2016, an Amnesty International report highlighted gross violations by SARS, including torture and other forms of ill-treatment. The report prompted assurances from the Nigerian authorities that SARS would be reformed, yet shocking violations committed by the unit have continued.