Since December 2017 we have made published two updates to WhoWasInCommand.com, adding a large number of new records, expanding others and making some corrections. Cumulatively, these updates increase the data available on WhoWasInCommand.com by 25%. In this blog post we’ll look in depth a recent restructure of the Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force and give a brief overview of other updates.
Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) – Nigeria Police Force
SARS are a specialised type of unit of the Nigeria Police Force. They were established in each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to combat violent crime. Civil society groups have reported on allegations of human rights abuses by SARS for at least 15 years. In its September 2016 report “You Have Signed Your Death Warrant” Amnesty International documented numerous allegations against SARS across Nigeria, including acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We have carefully extracted these incidents from Amnesty’s report and made them searchable on WhoWasInCommand.com.
In December 2017 Nigerian citizens rallied around the #EndSARS hashtag on social media, using it to make allegations and share experiences of violence and corruption by SARS personnel. #EndSARS culminated in a number of protests during which the movement’s leadership demanded the squads be disbanded. In response, the Inspector-General of Police did not disband SARS but restructured the units… twice. What, if anything, changed?
For a long stretch between 2010 and 3 December 2017 the SARS in each state and the FCT of Nigeria had two different and simultaneous chains of command. Each state/FCT SARS was under the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) for their state/FCT while also being “coordinated” by a Commissioner of Police for SARS who was under the Federal Criminal Investigation Department/”D” Department of the Nigeria Police Force. Ultimately both chains of command end at the Inspector General of Police (IGP) at Force Headquarters.
On 4 December 2017 the IGP announced a dramatic reshuffle: SARS in each state/FCT would report to the Federal SARS, which itself would be moved under the “B” Department/Operations Department at Force Headquarters in Abuja. Thus for a brief moment all of the SARS units in each state had a single chain of command.
It may be that this was a mistake because just over a fortnight later on 22 December 2017 the IGP made another announcement: SARS would return to having two simultaneous chains of command. SARS in each state/FCT would be under the command of the state/FCT Commissioner of Police (through the CP’s deputies in charge of operations) as well as continuing to report to the CP in charge of Federal SARS who was still under the “B” Department/Operations.
So, the overall effect on the SARS chain of command is the removal of State CID, along with a shift in reporting from “D” Department (Investigations) to the “B” Department (Operations) at Force Headquarters. The impact of these restructurings on SARS themselves are difficult to assess. A past reorganization announced by the IGP in November 2015 – which split SARS in each state into “operations” and “investigations” branches – apparently was never actually implemented on the ground. Amnesty International reported SARS officers they interviewed in June 2016 were “unaware of the IGP’s announcement [in November 2015] that SARS ha[d] been split into two units for operations purposes.” For now, SARS is also still listed as under the “D” Department on the Nigeria Police Force’s website. We will continue to watch developments closely, update and extend our data on SARS as more information becomes available.
You can view the updated data on the Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) of the Nigerian Police on WhoWasInCommand.com.
Other updates to data on security forces in Nigeria, Mexico and Egypt
As well as our close look at SARS above we have updated WhoWasInCommand.com with data on police units in Delta and Bauchi States in Nigeria. Further, we have now added allegations of human rights abuses by security forces against pro-Biafra protesters in the south-eastern states of Nigeria. In its November 2016 report “Bullets Were Raining Everywhere” Amnesty International reports numerous allegations of extrajudicial killing, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention committed by security forces against pro-Biafran protesters between August 2015 and August 2016 in Nigeria’s Anambra, Abia and Rivers States.
View the updated Nigeria data on WhoWasInCommand.com:
We have extended the Mexico dataset on WhoWasInCommand.com to cover Military Garrisons (“guarniciones militares”) and their commanders. Garrisons can play an active role in military operations and often command smaller units as well. One example of this is Guarnición Militar de Ciudad Juárez which participated in a major military joint operation Operación Conjunta Chihuahua and commanded both the 9 and 20 Regimientos de Caballería Motorizado (motorized cavalry regiments).
In an earlier upload of data we had omitted full descriptions of a number alleged human rights abuses in Mexico. We have now corrected this.
View the updated Mexico data on WhoWasInCommand.com:
For our data on Egypt, we have added initial data on top level military structures and entries for police units in Aswan and Al Sharqia governorates in Egypt. We’ve also included a small number of allegations of human rights abuses by police in Egypt as reported by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in September 2017.
View the updated Egypt data on WhoWasInCommand.com:
(Edited 2019-04-09 17:09 – update links to WhoWasInCommand.com with new URL structure)