By Emma Okonji
The Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami has called for an end to the continued harassment of young Nigerians with computing devices by the security agencies.
The minister called on security agencies to stop the current profiling and harassment of young Nigerians and admonished security agencies to be circumspect in these situations.
He said the ministry understood the need to protect the society, but he insisted that it must be done credibly, while recognising the fundamental human rights of every citizen of Nigeria. He explained that if the situation goes unchecked, it would dampen the vigorous attempt at diversifying the economy and rather push more young energies underground with catastrophic consequences.
The Minister, in a statement signed by his Spokesperson, Mrs. Uwa Suleiman, said: “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Communications has been drawn to reports of widespread harassment of young Nigerians with personal computers, tablets or phablets in public places. 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.”
Pantami, however commended 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 unscrupulous elements who use computing systems to commit cybercrimes.
According to Pantami, “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.”
Pantami, reiterated the commitment of the ministry to work closely with parastatals under his supervision, particularly the National Information Technology Development Agencies (NITDA) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), including 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.