The United Kingdom government trained the operatives of the disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS) for four years, according to a top government official in Britain.
In a letter dated October 29, 2020, James Duddridge, UK minister for Africa, said the former operatives of SARS participated in a training “designed to improve human rights.”
The letter was addressed to Kate Osamor, a member of the UK parliament, who shared a copy via her Twitter handle.
Osamor had written the minister to confirm reported links the UK government had with SARS following a nationwide protest against the police unit over alleged abuse of human rights.
The protests were the peak of years-long agitation against the anti-robbery squad accused of excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and, in some cases, extrajudicial killings.In the letter, Duddridge said the training programme ended in March 2020, adding that the UK remains committed to the respect for human rights in Nigeria.The letter read: “Through our CSSF-funded Nigeria Policing Programme, which ended in March 2020, FSARS officers participated in training on amended Nigerian police guidance designed to improve human rights, training on public finance and community policing workshops.
“This was in support of our wider objectives to strengthen the capacity, accountability and responsiveness of the Nigerian Police Force.
“The Nigeria Policing Programme was part of our Society and Justice Reform Programme, which is working to help deliver a criminal justice system that better protects the human rights of all Nigerians.”
The UK minister cited the community-policing framework and improved relations with communities as some of the positive outcomes of the program
Osamor described the revelation by the minister as shocking and sought further clarification.
“Either the Government deliberately funded SARS units when they were known to have committed extra-judicial killings or it had no idea where that funding was going,” she wrote via her Twitter handle.
During the #EndSARS protests, Catriona Laing, British high commissioner to Nigeria, had called for accountability over alleged human rights violations reported against the anti-robbery squad.