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#StopRobbingUs: Nigeria’s Tech Industry Protests Against Illegal Arrests Of Developers

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On Monday, 30th September 2019, Nigeria’s tech industry slammed security agencies for the illegal arrests of web developers. Authorities often accuse these young Nigerians of being internet fraudsters.


Outrage erupted from the tech community and on social media over the weekend after Lagos-based software engineer Toni Astor said he was arrested, beaten and extorted for money by a notorious police unit.


He narrated his experience at the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The unit within Nigeria’s police force often faces accusations of human rights abuses. This, in turn, led to the #EndSARS campaign aimed at demanding accountability and reform. The officials assaulted him after discovering him with a laptop and made him withdraw money from his accounts to pay them.



Astor wrote in a tweet, “Policemen there said you’re the one spoiling the economy.”


The incident brought together some 30 companies, investors and also media outlets in Nigeria’s budding tech industry to threaten a “class action lawsuit”. They did this under the banner #StopRobbingUs.


In a statement, they said:

“SARS officers, Nigeria Police and all tactical units, targeting software engineers is a frequent occurrence in Lagos and this is the latest in a string of attacks.


“This is an ongoing concern for Nigeria’s tech community. A talent problem already exists in our sector, yet police, particularly SARS’ harassment, accentuates the talent drain in our industry.”


#stopRobbingUs, Nigeria's tech industry cries out


Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos is a key tech hub for African developers. But the West African nation is also a centre for cybercrime and fraud, perpetrated by notorious “Yahoo Yahoo boys”.


Earlier this month Nigerian and US authorities said they had arrested nearly 300 people in a months-long crackdown on online scams to hijack wire transfers from companies and individuals.


Industry figures say web developers are regularly harassed and extorted by police authorities. These authorities accuse web developers of involvement in cybercrime.


Bosun Tijani, CEO of Co-Creation Hub, told AFP that officials often detained tech workers when found with a laptop. He said firms were documenting cases of the police targeting their workers around the country. They also called for proper training of police officials in this area. “It is driving talented young people away from this industry.”


SARS officers have long faced allegations of widespread abuse. Also, a prominent online campaign has called for the unit to be scrapped. Nigerian police’s complaint response unit subsequently said on Twitter that it was investigating the incident involving Astor.

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