People Power Does Work: Nigeria Forced To Disband Police Unit Which Operated Like Mnangagwa’s Ferret Unit.
11 October 2020
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Paul Nyathi

Nigeria’s police chief has announced the dissolution of a notorious anti-robbery unit following days of widespread protests against police brutality.

The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has long been accused of harassment, unlawful arrests, torture and even murders. Thousands of people marched across the country this week to demand it be disbanded, while #EndSARS trended online in Nigeria for several days.

Former Zimbabwe government minister Professor Jonathan Moyo was the first to alert of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s own similar state security group called Ferret. Moyo said the unit is involved in the abduction of citizens in Zimbabwe. The Ferret team is made up of officials from the country’s security agents.

In a statement on Sunday, Muhammed Adamu, inspector general of police, said the unit had been abolished “with immediate effect”, a move that was “in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people”.

He added, however, that all SARS officers would be redeployed to other police commands, formations and units, drawing condemnation by some activists online who pledged to keep up their campaign demanding accountability and justice for the victims of police brutality.

Adamu added the Nigerian police force would work with human rights groups and civil society organisations to investigate cases of alleged human rights violations.

The Nigerian presidency also said in a Twitter post that the police unit, which was founded in 1992 in a bid to combat robbery, would be disbanded immediately.

The latest demonstrations calling for the dissolution of SARS erupted after a video circulated last week alleging to show members of the unit shooting dead a man in the southern Delta state.

In June, a report by Amnesty International listed what it alleged were 82 cases of torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial execution by the SARS between January 2017 and May 2020.

The abuses were carried out under the supervision of high-ranking officers, it said.

It accused the squad of the “systematic use of torture” and alleged the existence of torture chambers within the Nigerian Police Force.