The Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali-Pantami has frowned at wrongful profiling of young Nigerians who eke their living through Information and Communication Technology, ICT, by the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and other security agencies in the country.
The minister, through a statement by his spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman, expressed his disapproval over the “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,” Mr Pantami said.
According to him, the conduct is capable of disrupting “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”.
However, while acknowledging the existence of some Nigerians who indulge in cybercrimes, the minister said officials must be careful not to paint all young Nigerians with a similar brush.
“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,” he said.
The minister, however, commended the efforts of some law enforcement agencies, particularly the approach of the EFCC, in intelligence gathering and subsequent apprehension of those using computing devices for criminal activities.
The statement added that the ministry is committed to working closely with parastatals under its supervision, particularly the National Information Technology Development Agencies, NITDA, and Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, in tackling malpractices.
“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.
Mr Pantami said: “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.”