The minister for Africa James Duddridge admitted British officials had trained officers from the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) between 2016 and 2020 â having initially denied any ties.
In a letter sent to Labour MP Kate Osamor on Thursday, the minister said SARS officers had participated in training âdesigned to improve human rights, training on public finance, and community policing workshopsâ. He also confirmed radio equipment was given to Nigerian police which was then used by SARS.
Ms Osamor â who had demanded the UK government reveal any ties to SARS â told The Independent: âIt 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.â
The MP said she had been told âcategoricallyâ by the minister earlier this month that no funding ever made its way to SARS units. âThe government has now been forced to admit that it not only spent millions training SARS but also directly supplied them with equipment.â
She added: âThe 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.â
The End SARS movement emerged in Nigeria during early October in revolt against police brutality. Activists demanded the disbandment of the unit â accused by Amnesty International of torture and extra-judicial executions â after footage showed a man being beaten by an officer.
The unit was disbanded on 11 October, but protests have persisted as Nigerian citizens demand wider law enforcement reform. Nigeria received global condemnation after its security forces opened fire on hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in Lagos last week â killing at least 12 people, according to Amnesty.
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
Mr Duddridge initially claimed in a letter to the Labour MP â dated 19 October â that the Foreign Office âdoes not provide and has not provided any support or training to SARS units or officersâ.
However, in his most recent reply, the minister admitted UK training was given to SARS through the Foreign Officeâs Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). The Conservative MP said he had asked officials to go back and make a âdeep diveâ in funding streams.
Mr Duddridge said of the training: âThis was in support of our wider objectives to strengthen the capability, accountability and responsiveness of the Nigerian Police Force.â
British radio equipment was also supplied to Nigerian police through a separate fund, which the minister confirmed was used by SARS units.
Last week The Independent revealed that the College of Policing â the professional body for police in England and Wales â had worked with the Nigerian authorities to train its security officers during 2019.
A spokesman for the body said British officers had âprovided some law enforcement officers in Nigeria with training to improve standards, however this did not involve public order trainingâ.
Siana Bangura, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: âThe UK should not be exporting violence, an ongoing expression of colonial practices, whether it is in the form of weapons or training. The current policy of support and collaboration risks providing moral cover for those that commit abuses."