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Pantami to security agencies: Stop tagging every young Nigerian with computing device ‘fraudsters’

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The Minister of Communications, Dr, Isa Pantami has expressed displeasure over the reports of widespread harassment of young Nigerians with personal computers, tablets or phablets in public places by the security agencies.

The Minister who recognised that the security agencies are having tough times in combating cybercrimes, he however said that the indiscriminate profiling of the young software engineers and others who are engaged in legitimate work will be counterproductive to stifle the ICT sector of the economy.

He said that labelling every young Nigerian with a computing device as a fraudster is unacceptable.

The Communications Minister made the remarks in a statement signed by his Spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman (Mrs).

He said, “These reports indicate that young persons are generally regarded as fraudsters by officers of security agencies if found with such devices in their possession and subsequently subjected to varied forms of harassments and in some cases outright extortion.

“The Ministry notes with dismay, this unfortunate turn of events as we celebrate the growing and bubbling technology eco-system in Nigeria that enables young persons to learn various skills ranging from software engineering to varied forms of entrepreneurship by simply accessing online tools and content on these devices.

“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.

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“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 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 labelling every young Nigerian with a computing device as a fraudster.

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“It is in this light that the Federal Ministry of Communications frowns at the current profiling and harassment of young Nigerians and therefore admonishes security agencies to be circumspect in these situations. We understand the need for proactivity to protect the society, however this must be done credibly while recognising the fundamental human rights of every citizen of Nigeria.

“If these 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 is committed to working closely with parastatals under her supervision, particularly the National Information Technology Development Agencies (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

We will also work with relevant security agencies, Hubs and all groups promoting digital capacity building in Nigeria to ensure that such incidents are completely eliminated and that all hands are on deck to promote the growth of a healthy eco-system supportive of young Nigerians and creating opportunities to harness their energies.

“The Federal Ministry of Communications will keep working assiduously to foster the 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”.

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The Minister’s comments are coming few days after Nigeria’s technology leaders launched #StopRobbingUs, a campaign to put an end to the common practice where Nigerian police stop young people with laptops and unlawfully arrest, attack or, in extreme circumstances, kidnap them, forcing them to withdraw funds from their bank accounts in order to regain their freedom.

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