Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami has expressed dissatisfaction over the widespread harassment of Nigerians with personal computers, tablets and other Information and Communication Technology (ICT) gadgets by security operatives.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by his spokesman, Mrs Uwa Suleiman, the minister said it would be counter productive to label every Nigerian youth with an ICT gadget as an internet fraudster.
The statement read in part: “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Communications (FMC) has been drawn to reports of widespread harassment of young Nigerians with personal computers, tablets or gadgets 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 harassment 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 utilizing computers and similar devices. We must however be careful not to paint all young Nigerians with a similar brush.”
The Minister however commended the efforts of some law enforcement agencies, particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in intelligence gathering and subsequent apprehension of some unscrupulous elements who use computing systems to commit cyber crimes.
“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.
“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 pro-activity to protect the society, however this must be done credibly while recognizing 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 statement added.