Police officers also routinely harass young Nigerians carrying laptops.
“These reports indicate that young persons are generally regarded as fraudsters by officers of security agencies if found with such devices in their possession and subsequently subjected to varied forms of harassments and in some cases outright extortion,” the ministry said.
The ministry’s statement said the conduct is capable of disrupting “the growing and bubbling technology eco-system in Nigeria that enables young persons to learn various skills ranging from software engineering to varied forms of entrepreneurship by simply accessing online tools and content on these devices”.
The communications ministry said it was aware that several other persons have engaged in nefarious activities utilising computers and similar devices, but said officials must be careful not to paint all young Nigerians with a similar brush.
“We understand the need for proactivity to protect the society; however, this must be done credibly while recognising the fundamental human rights of every citizen of Nigeria. If these situation goes unchecked, it will dampen the vigorous attempt at diversifying the economy and rather push more young energies underground with catastrophic consequences.”
The ministry however commended the efforts of some law enforcement agencies, particularly the approach of the EFCC, in intelligence gathering and subsequent apprehension of those using computing devices for criminal activities.
The statement added that the ministry is committed to working closely with parastatals under its supervision, particularly the National Information Technology Development Agencies (NITDA) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in tackling malpractices.
“We will also work with relevant security agencies, Hubs and all groups promoting digital capacity building in Nigeria to ensure that such incidents are completely eliminated and that all hands are on deck to promote the growth of a healthy eco-system supportive of young Nigerians and creating opportunities to harness their energies.
“It should be further noted that many young Nigerians have contributed significantly to the impressive growth of the Nigerian economy and have created employment for youth in Nigeria. The digital economy in Nigeria has continued to soar thereby giving impetus to the growth of ICT as a major segment of the economy.
“It would therefore be counterproductive to stifle this sector of the economy by labelling every young Nigerian with a computing device as a fraudster.”
The ministry said it will keep working assiduously to foster the growth of a knowledge-based economy and facilitate ICT as a key tool in the transformation of Nigeria in the areas of job creation, economic growth and transparency in governance.