The tech community in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is fighting back against what its leaders say is alleged police harassment and extortion of tech workers.
The campaign, titled #StopRobbingUs, was launched in September after Akinmolayan Oluwatoni, a software developer tweeted about being harassed by officers of the state’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Lagos, the country’s commercial hub.
Tech community speaks up
The close-knit tech community, including tech entrepreneur Iyin Aboyeji and Jason Njoku, CEO of Iroko TV, are speaking up against what they call “intimidation of their colleagues.”
Bosun Tijani, the founder of Co-creation Hub, one of Nigeria’s leading technology hubs, says the campaign hopes to make those responsible for extorting and harassing tech employees take responsibility for their actions.
“Your basic work tool is your laptop and most technology people would have a smartphone as well. So if police use that as an excuse to extort and harass, then we have a serious problem in the country,” he told CNN.
“What we are doing is coming out as an industry to shine a light on the fact that our colleagues and staff are being harassed on a daily basis, and that it has to stop. The campaign is about calling on those who are responsible to take action,” he added.
Crowdfunding to support lawsuits
Tech company founders in Nigeria have used crowdfunding to raise up to 13.8 million naira ($38,300) to finance lawsuits as well as support existing initiatives fighting police brutality, according to Tijani, founder of Co-creation Hub.
“The fund will help to support lawsuits. The men involved in harassment should not just be arrested, they have to be prosecuted,” he said.
Reacting to the campaign, Bala Elkana, a spokesman for the Lagos state police, said police are committed to protecting the rights of Nigerian citizens.
“Citizens have the right to move about without being harassed or molested by anybody. If there is any member of the tech association that has suffered any form of harassment they should step forward and we will investigate. We are determined to bring an end to this impunity,” he told CNN.