While young, hardworking Nigerians entering the tech industry may dream of the riches and high regard given to their counterparts in Silicon Valley, the reality is much grimmer. In addition to the hassle of learning code, workers are being harassed and extorted by Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police for simply looking like techies, which in Nigeria comes with a whole set of different assumptions.
The police assume young Nigerians with laptops and smartphones are involved with internet fraud, not software development, and believe they have excess funds. It’s confusing as the “Giant of Africa” is seen as a leading force on the continent for digital and technological progress.
To draw attention to the mistreatment, the Nigerian tech community has launched a campaign, The hashtag popped up on social media last week and has gained a steady following since. It was sparked by a Twitter thread from Akinmolayan Oluwatoni, in which the young software developer outlines an experience with SARS. He mentions getting stopped by police on his way home from work with his laptop, smartphone and various chargers.
Oluwatoni says the police then proceeded to detain him, demand a 1 million naira bribe ($2,759), and repeatedly beat him. They then went through his emails and messages and claimed he was involved with fraudulent behavior. Oluwatoni states he was only able to leave when he paid 15,000 naira ($41). The post gained traction and many other techies echoed his experience, drawing international attention.
Let’s meet over lunch this Friday for a critical strategic session on #EndSARS #PoliceAccountability 👉🏽https://t.co/Yq9ZCA3qJk… @citizen_gavel @EiENigeria @SIAF_NG @CivicHive 🚔 pic.twitter.com/hHA2U43HyG
— SEGA L'éveilleur®🚨 (@segalink) October 2, 2019
Strategic meeting for Police Accountability is scheduled to hold on Friday, 4th of October, 2019 at Civic Hive, 2nd Floor, 42 Montgomery Road, Yaba, Lagos from 2pm to 5pm