Youths become suspect, harassed whenever they’re seen with laptops, Pantami laments

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami on Wednesday, said that the government has earmarked 10 billion Naira annually in the Nigeria Startup Act to support digital innovators in the country.

Pantami disclosed this when he officially inaugurated the Nigeria Startup Act Implementation Committee (NSAIC) in Abuja.

He stressed that countries leading economically in the world are those that have made knowledge-based activities, knowledge-based economies, as well as digital innovations and start-ups their primary sources of income. He said that the Act was crucial to promoting digital startups, which will in turn boost the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.

The minister lamented the unwarranted harassment faced by young innovators in the nation who are frequently mistaken for criminals by law enforcement agents and noted that the Act would give them protection as well as legal, technical, and financial support to help them overcome some of their difficulties.

He said: “In a country like Nigeria, we are blessed with talents. We have innovators, young people that are making us proud. I have been with Nigerian startups to many global competitions and we always leave with our shoulders high because of the performance of our young innovators. A few days ago, we were in Riyadh with some of the innovators. There were six global prizes, two Nigerians won two out of the six and they participated in the event with more than 12,000 people. In the end, Nigeria was the only country with two global winners. This is really encouraging.

“In order to consolidate these achievements, and provide legal, technical, and financial backing to all these achievements, having the Nigeria startup Act becomes necessary. Its implementation also becomes necessary, because we discovered some challenges confronting our innovators in the country.

“Sometimes it’s in regards to finance. Today in the Act, there are provisions to support them financially. Government will set aside a minimum of 10billion Naira annually in addition to other sources of funding that have been captured in the law.

“Secondly, there is also a leadership where we are going to have the National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship to be chaired by the President of Nigeria.

“We also have an implementation committee where we bring together relevant stakeholders, some from government, some from the private sector, some from ecosystem, some from academia, some from legal institutions and many more to come together and provide the leadership that is required for the technical implementation of this very important law.

“In addition to so many initiatives, in a country like Nigeria it is unfortunate that a few years ago, before our modest efforts to complain to Mr President, some of our young innovators were unnecessarily being harassed sometimes by other institutions.

“Whenever they see young Nigerians carrying laptops, they become suspects. Instead of encouraging them, they are being intimidated and are treated like criminals. Citizens are always innocent until proven guilty by a court of the law. So all these issues are going to be addressed and they are being addressed by the Nigerian Startup Act 2023.”

Some members of the 27-man Committee include, Prof. Sahalu Junaidu, Chairman, Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, Co-Chair, Prof. Olayinka David-West, Vice Chair, Amal Hassan, Co-Vice Chair, Bashira Hassan, Secretary.

Others members are, Dr Mrs Juliet Odili, Bashir, Dr Dahiru Sani, Prof Bashir Galadanchi, Dr Usman All, Ahmad Abubakar Bello, Musa Ali-Baba, Kola Aina, Mohamme Jega, Adaeze Sokan, Yewande Oghogho Adewusi, Kasim Sodangi, Dr Femi Adeluyi, Oswald Osaretin Guobadia, Yakubu Musa, Dr Inya Sarah Lawal, Abdulsalam Umar, Saidu Abdullahi Abdullahi, Engr Ikechukwu Nnamani, Dr Bala Modi, Surayya Ahmad, Dr Abubakar Isa Umar.

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