LAGOS (NewsNation Now) — The Nigeria Police Force dissolved its Special Anti-Robbery Squad with immediate effect on Sunday, a police statement said. The decision was prompted by days of protests across the country against alleged brutality by the controversial unit.
The protests began after a video circulated on social media last week showing members of the unit, known as SARS, fatally shot a man in Delta state. It also prompted a globally-trending social media campaign to abolish the squad.
Demonstrators also alleged that police shot and killed another man while marching in the southwestern city of Ogbomosho on Saturday. Police did not respond to requests for comment on the allegations.
“The dissolution of SARS is in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people,” the police statement said.
It added that the police were redeploying unit members and would announce a new strategy to tackle SARS’ remit of fighting armed robbery, kidnapping, and other violent crime.
Protesters and rights groups met the announcement with skepticism because police officials and politicians have said before they would dissolve SARS, but little to no change happened.
For years, Nigerians have accused SARS of heavy-handed methods, particularly young people, who say officers regularly target, beat and extort them.
An Amnesty International report in June documented 82 alleged cases of SARS mistreating, torturing, and extra-judicially executing detainees.
On Sunday, Nigerian police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in the capital Abuja, a repeat of what witnesses said were similar events on Friday.
Reuters contributed to this report.