The UK government has admitted providing training and equipment to Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), after initially denying any ties.
The minister for Africa James Duddridge, who is one of Boris Johnson’s ministers, admitted British officials had trained officers from the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) between 2016 and 2020.
In a letter sent to Labour MP Kate Osamor on Thursday, October 29, the minister said SARS officers had participated in training “designed to improve human rights, training on public finance, and community policing workshops”.
He also confirmed radio equipment was given to Nigerian police which was then used by SARS.
Ms Osamor – who had demanded the UK government reveal any ties to SARS – told The Independent: “It is shocking that in the middle of global protests to End SARS our government appears to have had no idea whether or not it was funding those very units.”
The MP said she had been told “categorically” by the minister earlier this month that no funding ever made its way to SARS units.
“The government has now been forced to admit that it not only spent millions training SARS but also directly supplied them with equipment.”
She added: “The government now needs to explain how and why it ever felt it was appropriate to train and equip security forces which were known to have taken part in torture and extra-judicial killings.”
Sharing a copy of the letter to Twitter, Ms Osamor wrote: “On 19 October the Minister for Africa @JamesDuddridge assured me that the UK Government had provided no funding to SARS units. That wasn’t true. The Minister has now confirmed that the Government has trained and supplied equipment to SARS units from 2016 to 2020.”
The End SARS protests began in Nigeria in early October, in revolt against police brutality. Activists demanded the disbandment of the unit after footage showed a man being beaten by an officer.