More than 100 Nigerians based in Germany lent their voices to the global campaign to scrap the rogue Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian police, at a protest in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Berlin on Sunday.
The call was part of a wave of protests, under the harsh tag #ENDSARS, that has swept across many Nigerian cities, with citizens calling on the Federal Government and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to scrap the SARS unit due to the criminal elements within its ranks who have become infamous for the abduction, extortion and killing of young people.
According to Amnesty International, the SARS unit has been behind many stories of human rights abuses in the country without officers being brought to justice.
“Since 2016 Amnesty International has been receiving reports from lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists and collected testimonies stating that some police officers in SARS regularly demand bribes, steal and extort money from criminal suspects and their families,” AI tweeted.
It added that its research “exposed the callous workings of a police squad operating outside of the law and inflicting daily brutality on Nigerians who are often legally powerless to defend themselves against criminal accusations, let alone from the torture meted out by SARS.”
Protesters in Berlin, who were rallied by calls on Twitter like most of the demonstrations in Nigeria and other global cities like New York and London, spoke of terrible encounters they or their families and friends have had with the SARS unit.
Young people are routinely stopped and asked to open their mobile phones, refusals could lead to being beaten and arrested under trumped up charges of being armed robbers or online fraudsters.
Many victims end up paying heavy ransoms as they are taken to bank automatic teller machines (ATMs) to withdraw cash in lieu of their freedom.
The SARS unit was formed in 1992 as a response to growing armed crime in Nigeria under the military, however, it has since turned into a terrifying force that has scarred many innocent people.
IGP Adamu announced the banning of the unit on Sunday afternoon after a lot of consultations but many activists believe that there is a lot to be achieved going forward. It is not the first time that the unit has been banned, so activists in Nigeria have urged people to continue to hit the streets until real change happens by Nigerian leaders that have largely remained quiet throughout this period.