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Stop tagging youths seen with computers Fraudsters, Comm. Min. caution security agencies

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The Federal Ministry of Communications on Saturday cautioned Nigeria’s security agencies over rising practice of labelling youths found with computing devices as fraudsters.

According to reports, the ministry disclosed this while reacting to reports of trending harassment of young Nigerians spotted in public with, tablets, personal computers, and other information and communication technology equipment.

At the weekend, Toni Astro, software developer, accused some security operatives of detaining and extorting money from him after accusing him of being an Internet fraudster in Lagos.

The security personnel, according to reports found computing devices on Astro when they accosted him in the Ketu area.

The development has already prompted a #StopRobbingUs campaign by some Nigerian technology entrepreneurs, led by Bosun Tijani of the Co-Creation Hub and Jason Njoku of IROKOTv, among others.

Reacting to incident, the Ministry of Communications said its attention had been drawn to reports that youths found with ICT devices are subjected to varied forms of harassment and in some cases outright extortion.

Speaking through the spokesperson of the Minister of Communications, Uwa Suleiman, on Tuesday, the ministry expressed concern that the attitude of the security agencies could stifle the growth of the IT sector.

“It would be counterproductive to stifle this sector of the economy by labelling every young Nigerian with a computing device as a fraudster.

“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 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 warned.

Describing the development as an ‘unfortunate turn of events’, the ministry stressed that many young Nigerians have contributed significantly to the growth of the country’s economy and have created employment for youths.

The technology eco-system enables young persons to learn skills ranging from software engineering to various forms of entrepreneurship by simply accessing online tools and content on their ICT devices, the ministry noted.

However, the ministry also observed that several persons have utilised computers and similar devices to engage in nefarious activities.

“We must, however, be careful not to paint all young Nigerians with a similar brush,” the ministry added.

In the same vein, the ministry commended the efforts of law enforcement agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in the campaign against cybercrime.

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