The rise in the reported cases of Police and DSS operatives swooping on every Nigerian youth either moving along the streets or on transit with a laptop and related devices has caught the attention of the Minister of Communications, Dr Isah Pantami.
Accordingly, the Ministry has called on security agencies in the country to stop the harassment of Nigerians, especially the youths with personal computers, tablets or phablets in public places as not all Nigerian youths are yahoo-yahoo criminals.
The minister was responding to outcries and reports indicating that young persons are generally regarded as fraudsters by officers of security agencies if found with such devices and subsequently subjected to varied forms of harassment and in some cases outright extortion.
Giving the details of the anger of the minister, spokesperson for the Minister of Communications, Uwa Suleiman, said the Ministry noted with dismay, this unfortunate turn of events, as it celebrates the growing and bubbling technology eco-system in Nigeria that enables young people to learn various skills ranging from software engineering to varied forms of entrepreneurship by simply accessing online tools and content on these devices.
According to her, “We are aware that several other persons have engaged in nefarious activities utilising computers and similar devices, we must, however, be careful not to paint all young Nigerians with a similar brush. At this time, we commend the efforts of some law enforcement agencies, particularly the approach of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in intelligence gathering and subsequent apprehension of these unscrupulous elements, who use computing systems to commit cybercrimes.
“It should be further noted that many young Nigerians have contributed significantly to the impressive growth of the Nigerian economy, and have created employment for the youth in Nigeria. The digital economy in Nigeria has continued to soar, thereby giving impetus to the growth of ICT as a major segment of the economy. It would, therefore, be counterproductive to stifle this sector of the economy by labeling every young Nigerian with a computing device as a fraudster,” she stated.
Suleiman argued that whereas the Ministry understands the need for surveillance to protect the society, she averred that “however this must be done credibly while recognising the fundamental human rights of every citizen of Nigeria. If this situation goes unchecked, it will dampen the vigorous attempt at diversifying the economy and rather push more young energies underground with catastrophic consequences.”
The ministry further assured that it will continue to partner with relevant agencies and private sector bodies to drive growth of a knowledge-based economy and facilitate ICT as a key tool in the transformation of Nigeria in the areas of job creation, economic growth, and transparency in governance going forward.