Business leaders from CcHUB, IROKO, Future Africa and Printivo have launched the #StopRobbingUs campaign to try to end ongoing harassment by law enforcement officials of young tech workers.
Led by Bosun Tijani of CcHUB, Jason Njoku of IROKO, Iyin "E" Aboyeji of Future Africa and Oluyomi Ojo of Printivo, amongst others, the campaign is calling for the Federal Government of Nigeria to intervene in the continued practice of illegally arresting and extorting young people in Nigeria who work in the technology sector.
A fundraiser has been launched by Flutterwave to raise money for a legal intervention and public awareness programme.
Organisers say the #StopRobbingUs campaign was initiated after Toni Astro, a Lagos-based software engineer, posted on Twitter a harrowing account of his encounter with Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officers in Ketu, Lagos.
The campaigners claim that on 28 September, Astro was allegedly publicly intimidated, arrested, beaten and extorted, in order to secure his freedom.
"News of 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. Today's news builds on the larger #EndSARS movement that has rocked Nigeria over the last year, which has used social media to appeal for an end to the frequent robberies of Nigerians, by security operatives who are supposed to protect them," they state.
Tijani adds: "They are mostly young people who carry expensive equipment such as MacBooks (provided by their companies) and smartphones. It seems SARS officers assume that anyone young carrying such expensive equipment must be up to fraudulent activities, therefore they approach them. Second to that, the SARS operatives often also assume that if these young people have access to such expensive equipment, they also have the funds to pay bribes, hence their attempts to extort hundreds of thousands of Naira from them."
Tijani and other business leaders want the campaign to result in a culture shift, a policy shift, underpinned by legislation and "swift legal action for perpetrators."
He says: "We have a growing young population that is fast running out of patience with a society that does not represent them and that does nothing to support or protect them. The consistent lack of support from those who should fix this challenge will ultimately discourage our young tech talent from contributing to our economic prosperity.
" ... tech particularly is susceptible to this exodus, because engineers' skills are coveted around the world. Everywhere, it seems, except for Nigeria, where our government stands by and allows them to be persecuted as they go about their daily commute. Why would a professional in any sector want to stay in a country that doesn't value them or protect them from extortion and physical attacks? This is why we are mobilising - to ensure we create a safer place for our tech talent. We want them to stay here in Nigeria and contribute to the sector and the wider economy."
According to Tijani business leaders are volunteering their resources in support of the campaign and their request is for people to collectively put pressure on the government to end the attacks.