Following the alleged harassment and extortion of a software developer, Toni Astro by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), tech founders have resolved to raise funds to combat similar occurrences.

Astro had taken to Twitter, using his handle @toniastro_, to share his encounter with some SARS officials, an action which attracted wild reactions from tech stakeholders and social media users at large.

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In a series of tweets, Astro accused the SARS officers of stopping him while he was on a motorcycle. According to Astro, the policemen subsequently took him to the Ogudu Area H Command where he was accused of being an Internet fraudster and extorted.

Astro said he was asked to pay N1 million to avoid going to the station, adding that he was interrogated by 6 police officers and assaulted by 4 of them while being asked to confess to being an internet fraudster.

Business day

Tech startup founders step in: In the heat of the #EndSARS movement, which was reignited as a result of the extortion and harassment experienced by Astro, the founder, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tech incubator Co-creation Hub (CCHUB), called on Nigerians to come together in order to end the harassment and extortion of tech developers and other self-employed Nigerians.

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Responding to Tijani’s call, the co-founder and CEO of streaming service, IrokoTV, Jason Njoku announced the commitment of N10 million towards the new movement. Njoku also called for a “robust and concerted legal effort” to protect tech stakeholders from harassment and extortion.

The tech community is fighting back: Tech leaders in the country have launched #StopRobbingUs, an initiative synonymous to Segun Awosanya’s #EndSARS. The newly-established initiative is to put an end to “the common practice where Nigerian police stop young people with laptops and unlawfully arrest, attack or, in extreme circumstances, kidnap them, forcing them to withdraw money from their bank accounts in order to regain their freedom.”

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The movement, which would be led by Bosun Tijani of CcHUB, Jason Njoku of IROKO, Iyin “E” Aboyeji of Future Africa, Oluyomi Ojo of Printivo, amongst others, is now considering a Class Action Lawsuit against police brutality across the country.

Speaking on the new initiative, Tijani was quoted as saying, “Our ask is simple. Stop arresting our colleagues. This is an ongoing concern for Nigeria’s tech community. A talent problem already exists in our sector, yet police, particularly SARS’ harassment, accentuates the talent drain in our industry. This is the central issue for jobs and youth empowerment in Nigeria and the continued, illegal attacks on our country’s young people should be treated as a national emergency. Beyond its pro-innovation rhetoric, the Nigerian government continues to turn a blind eye to the robbery and psychological intimidation of young tech talent.

“We are social innovators, entrepreneurs, engineers and business leaders who work in Nigeria’s technology and innovation sector. Over the last few decades, we have collectively helped to build an innovative, highly respected tech industry that has elevated Nigeria on the global stage and demonstrated that young Nigerians can do great things. The bedrock of our industry is Nigeria’s young and ambitious technology talent. They drive our operations, build our products, serve our customers and solve difficult problems for society every day. Without this talent, our industry would not exist. Nigeria’s tech community is mobilizing, and fast. Collectively, we have remained silent for too long.”

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