By September 29, 2019

Inside Nigeria Where A Laptop Means Internet Fraud & Where Tech Founders Are Now Fighting Police Brutality

By September 29, 2019

Watch the news & stories in motion: Subscribe to WeeTracker on YouTube

Another day, another sad story of harassment and brutality unleashed on an innocent Nigerian youth by officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) — a notorious arm of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) that seems to be made up of the very criminals that they are supposed to be hunting.

This time, though, it may have been one assault too many as prominent Nigerian tech founders are now livid. 

Bosun Tijani of CcHub, Jason Njoku of iROKO Tv, Seni Sulyman of Andela, Victor Asemota of Alta Global Ventures, Mark Essien of Hotels.ng and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (formerly of Andela and Flutterwave) are just a few of the stalwarts of the Nigerian tech ecosystem who are now vehemently speaking against the SARS menace. 

Indeed, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to sponsor the fight against the continued abuse of innocent Nigerians by corrupt police officers who have no business wearing the uniform or the badge. 

As a matter of fact, the iROKO Tv boss has already donated NGN 10 Mn to the campaign as other donations are flying in. Also, the #EndSARS hashtag is currently trending on Twitter as many more disturbing accounts of SARS brutality and extortion continue to emerge.

They are all calling for decisive action to be taken against corrupt Nigerian police officers whose stock in trade is to stop, harass, and extort young Nigerians who look like they clean up good, and most especially when they are carrying a backpack that has a laptop in it. 

In today’s Nigeria, when a SARS officer sees a laptop on a young Nigerian male who doesn’t look like he picks up scrap metal for a living, it’s basically the same as when the DEA finds 4 pounds of coke in someone’s bag during a drug bust.

To them, any young Nigerian who has a laptop and doesn’t look like a beggar is an internet fraudster who has millions of naira in their bank account — millions which they want a share of.

They pick up just about anyone. At one minute you are in a taxi headed somewhere, next thing you are in handcuffs being slapped around and threatened by SARS officers. After which the corrupt officers would ask for a huge sum of money before letting go of the victim.

There’s been so many such cases and lots of complaints from people who have suffered the harrowing ordeal. Both the Inspector General of Police and the government have been urged to act to end SARS or reform it, but neither institution seems to be concerned.

Source: lists.ng

Nothing is being done as thousands of gainfully employed Nigerian youths continue to be assaulted and extorted by corrupt police officers who are preying upon a misguided idea of the average Nigerian youth as a dishonest person who is all up for cutting corners and ripping people off over the internet.

In the later hours of yesterday, Nigerian Tech Twitter was rocked by the narration of the harrowing experience of one Toni Astro; a software developer who was basically kidnapped by SARS officers, handcuffed, beaten senseless, locked up, accused of all sorts of far-fetched crimes, and extorted of his hard-earned money.

The young man had just alighted after using a bike-hailing service to get to the Ketu area of Lagos when SARS officers approached him. They asked to see his phone before handcuffing him and forcing him to climb onto another bike by pointing a gun at him. To passersby, he looked like a criminal that had met his waterloo.

Toni Astro was then taken to the squalid bowels of a police station (Ogudu Area H command). He was cornered by a total of six officers, slapped and punched repeatedly, and accused of doing “Yahoo Yahoo” for a living. The police officers also demanded a million naira from him.

Even though he had an ID on him, they didn’t care. His emails and WhatsApp messages were checked and when they saw his account balance, they asked him to give them all the money in his account or be left to rot in jail. Then, at some point, they wanted half the money. 

Long story short, he had to go withdraw cash from an ATM to buy his freedom. They wouldn’t take bank transfers because they didn’t want to be traced. Toni Astro got home in one piece physically, but mentally he had been crushed to a thousand pieces.

It was his narration that triggered the latest outrage and spurred the current calls for decisive action at this point in time. If there’s any chance that the SARS issue will finally be addressed, it sure looks like now is the time.

And that’s because, at the moment, Nigeria’s tech ecosystem is not only voicing out against it but also uniting to fight it. At least, it’s the first time resources are actually being mobilized to combat the menace and it looks like SARS has finally pushed everyone to that “enough is enough” point.

Featured Image Courtesy: The Guardian Nigeria

Found the article interesting ? Follow us on Twitter to see what others are saying about it.

Did you like this article ?