Nigeria’s inspector general of police has banned a notorious unit from carrying out stop and search duties and setting up roadblocks amid growing anger at routine harassment and atrocities allegedly committed by its officers.
Mohammed Adamu also said members of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) must always wear uniforms.
Videos shared recently on social media appear to show officers extorting money and even shooting people.
Nigerians want SARS disbanded.
The hashtag #EndSARS is trending on Twitter, triggered by the alleged killing of a young man by officers from the unit in the city of Lagos on Saturday.
Many people are also using the hashtag to share stories of brutality attributed to the police unit.
Lagos Governor Sanwo-Olu tweeted on Sunday: “Appropriate actions will be taken, and speedily too”.
SARS and other tactical police units have been banned from “invasion of privacy of citizens particularly through indiscriminate and unauthorised search of mobiles, laptops and smart devices,” Mr Adamu said in a statement on Sunday.
They should, he said, focus on cases of armed robberies, kidnapping and other violent crimes. He also said that police commissioners and commanders would be held liable for misconduct of officers in the areas they were in charge of.
Three years ago Nigeria’s police chief ordered an immediate re-organisation of the SARS after public outcry, but little, if any, changed according to an Amnesty International investigation published in June.The rights group accused SARS officers of using “torture and other ill-treatment to execute, punish and extract information from suspects”.
It documented 82 cases between January 2017 and May 2020. Amnesty found the group allegedly targeted men between the ages of 17 and 30. “Young men with dreadlocks, ripped jeans, tattoos, flashy cars or expensive gadgets are frequently targeted by SARS,” the organisation said.
“The Nigerian authorities must go beyond lip service and ensure there is real reform, ” Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said about the findings.