Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Living With Nigerian Police Brutality

The Nigerian Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad since 1992 have been accused of roadside executions, motiveless arrests, unlawful detention, jailhouse mock executions, harassment and extortion.


The Nigerian Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has long been accused of committing roadside executions after extracting groundless confessions, harassment and extorting civilians since it was created in 1992 to capture and solve cases of armed robberies, cybercrimes, murders, kidnappings, and other major crimes. 

In 2020, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari stated he would disband the SARS unit however, to date, this is the fourth time in as many years that the government has promised to disband or reform the unit that citizens say has terrorized them for decades without any real change.

Nigerian Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad allegedly went from combating violent crime to allegedly committing violent crime.

In the most recent incident, a Nigerian police officer, Drambi Vandi has been charged with the point-blank shooting death of a pregnant lawyer, Bolanle Raheem in Lagos Nigeria on December 25, 2022, Christmas Day.

The 2018 incident involved Philomena Celestine, she was traveling home from her university graduation ceremony with her four year old niece and two young adult brothers when their car was pulled over by SARS officers and her two brothers brutally and forcefully extracted out of her car.

Celestine brothers were taken into the woods where SARS Nigerian Police harassed them for over 30 minutes, and accused them of being Boko Haram terrorist group cybercriminals simply on the evidence of the brothers owning a laptop.

In March 2017, SARS arrested 23-year-old Miracle Ifeanyichukwu Okpara on a charge of having stolen a laptop. Amnesty International reported that he was tortured and hardly given any food during 40 days of detention before he was taken to court and charged with armed robbery. The court dismissed the case for lack of evidence.

In 1992, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad officially came into being as separate from the Nigerian Police Force criminal investigation departments in Nigeria's 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. 

The Nigerian Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad was one of the 14 units under the Nigerian Police Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department whose mandate included arrest, investigation and prosecution of suspected armed robbers, murderers, kidnappers, hired assassins and other suspected violent criminals.

Nigeria is slightly more than twice the size of California, having the largest population of any African nation and the 6th largest population in the world. Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups and the median age of Nigerians is 18.6 years. Nigeria has a mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic law in 12 northern states, and traditional law. 

The Nigerian Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad have been long accused of pervasive corruption and an ineffective system. Some states have created local security forces in response to increased violence, insecurity, and criminality of government security forces.

Historically, police officers who are alleged to have unlawfully killed Nigerians have faced few or no repercussions. The police authorities created a Complaint Response Unit in November 2015, through which the police could process complaints from the public. To date, no SARS officer has been found responsible for torture, ill-treatment of detainees or unlawful killing.

Most SARS arrests are young men between the ages of 18 and 35. Since 2017, #EndSARS protests across Nigeria against SARS officers have been building. Since protests began, protesters have been targeted by SARS. 

Socrates Mbamalu, a 28-year-old writer, stated SARS officers targeted him in the street in Lagos Nigeria and searched his backpack. SARS officers saw his laptop which they accused him of stealing and demanded a receipt. When he could not produce a receipt they detained him overnight in an overcrowded cell.

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