The Stream

Nigeria: Is SARS gone or is it being rebranded?

On Monday, October 19 at 19:30GMT:
Nigerian authorities say they have abolished a notorious police unit after a week of huge protests sparked by a viral video that showed two officers shooting a man – but demonstrators are not convinced by the move.

The protests, during which Amnesty International says at least 10 people were killed, have continued. Activists say disbanding the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was not enough and that campaigning will continue until there is root and branch reform of the police force and an independent investigation into abuses.

President Muhammadu Buhari insists “extensive police reforms” will take place. The country’s top police officer has promised to investigate allegations of abuse involving SARS officers and ensure former officers go through a medical and psychological evaluation before being reassigned. Protesters, though, are sceptical.

An announcement that a new unit, the Special Weapons and Tactics team (SWAT), would be formed to replace SARS prompted activists to claim the unit was simply being rebranded. The #EndSars movement on social media was quick to launch a second campaigning hashtag, #EndSwat.

SARS has been around since 1984 and has repeatedly been accused of corruption, torture, arrests and extrajudicial killing. The #EndSars hashtag was first used in 2017 when other videos of alleged abuse went viral.

Amnesty International documented at least 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial killings between January 2017 and May this year – the victims mainly men aged between 18 and 35.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll discuss the latest developments in this fast-moving story, ask why it has galvanized Nigerians both at home and abroad, and look ahead to what may happen next.

On this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Ahmed Idris, @Ahmedtj66
Correspondent, Al Jazeera

Ndi Kato, @YarKafanchan
SARS protester and Executive Director, Dinidari Foundation

Suleiman Abba
Chairman, Nigerian Police Trust Fund and former Inspector General of Police