By Henry Iheanacho
The UK government has said it provided training and equipment to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS unit of the Nigeria Police Force, after initially denying any ties.
The minister for Africa, James Duddridge admitted British officials had trained officers from the now-disbanded SARS between 2016 and 2020.
In a letter made available to member of parliament, Kate Osamor on Thursday, the British minister said SARS officers had participated in training “designed to improve human rights, training on public finance, and community policing workshops”. He also revealed that radio equipment was supplied to Nigerian police which was then used by SARS.
Labour MP Osamor who had demanded the UK government reveal any ties to SARS said: “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.”
She said the minister had told her “categorically” 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.”
Mr Duddridge initially told the MP in a letter dated October 19, that the Foreign Office “does not provide and has not provided any support or training to SARS units or officers”.
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. #EndSARS pic.twitter.com/uDACZ1OHXL
— Kate Osamor| Labour – Co-operative MP| Edmonton || (@KateOsamor) October 29, 2020
However, in his most recent reply, the minister admitted UK trained SARS through the Foreign Office’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). The Conservative MP said he had asked officials to go back and make a “deep dive” in funding streams.
Mr Duddridge said of the training: “This was in support of our wider objectives to strengthen the capability, accountability and responsiveness of the Nigerian Police Force.”
British radio equipment was also supplied to the Nigerian police through a separate fund, which the minister confirmed was used by SARS units.
Last week, the College of Policing – the professional body for police in England and Wales admitted it worked with the Nigerian authorities to train its security officers in 2019.
A spokesman for the Police body said British officers had “provided some law enforcement officers in Nigeria with training to improve standards, however this did not involve public order training”.