#StopRobbingUs Campaign Must Not Die Out As Developer Whose Ordeal Triggered Action Suffers Tragedy

By  |  October 17, 2019

Remember that Toni Astro story from late September? Well, Toni Astro is actually Akinmolayan Oluwatoni; a software developer at Buffer Media in Lagos.

It was his harrowing experience at the hands of officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) — a unit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) that is notorious for roguish activities — that outraged the entire tech ecosystem in Nigeria and triggered the #StopRobbingUs campaign under which tech leaders have now united to fight police brutality and extortion perpetrated especially on the Nigerian youth.

On the evening of Saturday, September 28, Oluwatoni was on his way to meet his father who had been involved in an accident and was in need of urgent surgery.

But he was sidetracked in the most terrible way after police officers basically kidnapped, brutalized, and extorted him. Oluwatoni was, thus, unable to help his sick father as promptly as he would have hoped. Oluwatoni’s father died last week, and it’s not irrational to blame the tragedy on the notorious officers.

Akinmolayan Oluwatoni
Source: Twitter/@toniastro_

In fact, Oluwatoni was going to pay for the immediate operation with most of the money he saved up from work. But police officers of Ogudu Area H had other ideas.

That evening, he was accosted by two policemen who asked to go through his phone. Then, they talked about taking him to their police station. And when he asked why, they pointed a gun at him.

In a nutshell, he was taken to the squalid bowels of the police station, accused of doing “yahoo yahoo”, beaten and brutalised by six policemen who asked him to pay NGN 1 Mn before he would be let go.

Then, the policemen stripped him, threw him into a cell and told him he would rot in there if he didn’t give them some of the money they believed he had gotten through internet fraud. Oluwatoni was also threatened at gunpoint at the police station, the policemen said to throw him into “Kiri Kiri” that night.

Eventually, they beat down the amount they were demanding to NGN 500 K, and then they wanted half the money in his account after going through his emails and seeing his balance. Essentially, Oluwatoni had to pay up (in cash) to get out of that hell that same evening.

After his narration on Twitter, the tech community in Nigeria got behind his case. ‘Bosun Tijani, Jason Njoku, Oluyomi Ojo, Seni Sulyman, Victor Asemota, GB Agboola, Iyin Aboyeji, and Odunayo Eweniyi are just a few of the many important players in Nigerian tech who took up the matter.

With support from Enough Is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria) and Segun Awosanya; a realtor backing the cause, the #StopRobbingUs campaign gathered a head of steam. A crowdfunding for the campaign yielded over NGN 10 Mn within the first 24 hours.

Within days, four of the police officers were apprehended. The money was returned to Oluwatoni and an orderly room trial was set in motion. But it may have been too late.

Oluwatoni’s sick father died last week and one can’t help but wonder what would have been if that episode never happened. What if the young techie just went home to his father without any drama that day? What if the police didn’t place their greed above the welfare of the people they swore to protect and defend that day?

If Oluwatoni had gotten to his father without any incident that day, maybe his father would have gotten quicker medical attention and still be alive because the young man wouldn’t have to spend the next few days dealing with the trauma and issuing statements that led to the arrest of the officers and the recovery of his funds.

To call a spade a spade, the life of Oluwatoni’s father was essentially cut short, not by injuries from the accident, but by the officers who saw a legitimately employed young man as a prime target for their harassment, brutality, and extortion on that day.

Oluwatoni had IDs on him clearly stating his occupation but it didn’t matter to them. They went through his chats and emails and found nothing, but they had already branded him a “Yahoo Boy” the moment they saw a MacBook and an iPhone with him.

That was all that mattered to them. To them, the MacBook and iPhone were a dead giveaway — the evidence that he was into internet fraud, because a young man like him couldn’t afford it any other way. How disheartening!

Even when Oluwatoni told the officers about his father, they wouldn’t listen. All they cared about what squeezing out as much “man must chop” money from him as they could, and by any means necessary.

Now, Oluwatoni’s father has paid the ultimate price and maybe it would’ve been different if the deceased didn’t have to add police brutality and extortion to the list of things to worry about, alongside health problems.

Nigerians must now rally to make sure #StopRobbingUs doesn’t peter out and become just another hashtag after gathering some real momentum.

The orderly room trial against the errant officers, in this case, is believed to still be in progress. And with Segun Awosanya leading the fight, justice should soon be served.

It follows that, as Nigerians leave their thoughts and prayers with Oluwatoni and family at this time, effort must be intensified to ensure that the fight continues until no one else has to put up with such an ordeal. Ever.

And all “rogues in police uniform” must be brought to book.

Featured Image Courtesy: Twitter/@toniastro_

Most Read

From Bootstraps To Breakthroughs: Unravelling South Africa’s Startup Secrets

The startup ecosystem in South Africa is a buoyant and dynamic industry propelled

Moniepoint Is Stepping Up Its Global Ambitions As UK Plans Take Shape

Moniepoint Inc., the parent company of one of the largest business payments and

Tracing The Rapid Rise Of E-Mobility in Kenya

The global automotive industry has shifted significantly towards electric vehicles (EVs) in recent