For many Nigerians, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad has long been synonymous with corruption, torture, and killing. The government force, created in 1992 to combat gang crime, has since become the symbol of Nigeria’s rampant problem of police violence. One study concluded that Nigerian police kill someone 58% of the time when they respond to a violent altercation, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In recent days, protests have broken out across the country – the largest in years, The New York Times reports. Protesters and journalists have been shot, with at least two deaths, and dozens remain in custody. But this past weekend brought a breakthrough, with the president vowing to disband SARS as “only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms.”
“This is an incredible accomplishment,” Bulama Bukarti, a human rights lawyer, told the Journal. And it has opened the way for deeper change. “SARS isn’t just an institution, but a mentality,” Mr. Bukarti adds. “This is only the beginning.”
For their part, protesters say they’re committed to that change. One told The Guardian: “We won’t stop, we’ll be here tomorrow and the next day and next year until there’s change.”