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Cybercrime-fighters under fire for treatment of students | #cybercrime | #infosec | #hacking | #aihp


Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) has been accused of illegal and unconstitutional conduct after two recent raids on two university campuses, the arrest of about 90 students for alleged cybercrime – and the alleged publication of all the students’ names and photographs on the commission’s website.

University World News learnt earlier in December 2023 that some of the students are considering legal action against the EFCC.

The first pre-dawn raid on 25 August that led to the arrest of 23 students at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS). All 23 students had their names and photographs allegedly published on the EFCC website and they were named as internet fraudsters, although all of them were later released after no evidence was found against them.

One of those apprehended but later released was Azeez Naimat, a 500-level (fifth year) law student at UDUS. She told University World News she was praying in her room in a privately owned hostel at about 5am when EFCC officials raided their residence at Bafarawa Estate in Sokoto. Naimat was not among the suspected fraudsters, but was arrested after trying to take a picture of the registration number of a car used by the EFCC officials.

She was taken with the rest of the group to the EFCC offices, where they were told to write down their names and had their phones checked. Those against whom no evidence was found were then released, only to discover later that their details had already been published on the EFCC website along with the suspected ‘Yahoo Boys’, as internet fraudsters are sometimes called. The post was also distributed to media organisations.

Naimat said she felt like crying when she saw her name published along with suspected criminals. “They just published our names for propaganda, and they are trying to destroy people’s image to achieve that.”

She said that, although her family advised her to settle the matter, she would have taken legal action herself if she had money for a lawyer.

Also arrested was Adejoh Nebiu, a 400-Level political science student at UDUS. He told University World News the officials had knocked on his door and threatened to shoot if he failed to let them in. Fully armed officials then entered his room and asked for him by name. After confirming his identity, he was asked where his black Mercedes-Benz was. Nebiu denied that the car was his and told them it belonged to a friend who used to be a frequent visitor but had left after finishing his exams.

Student protests over the arrests

Nebiu denies any wrongdoing and says being linked to a crime might damage his career prospects and may even lead to his being denied a visa because of the EFCC’s publication of his name and photograph. “I am not into cybercrime, and I would never do cybercrime. We want the EFCC to pull down the post from the internet. I am the president of Kogi State Students, and someone of high repute at the university,” he told University World News.

Similar events occurred on 1 November when 69 students from Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun State, were arrested by EFCC officials during a midnight raid on hostels located outside the campus.

In response to these arrests, some of the affected students protested against the EFCC with posters proclaiming: ‘I am a medical student, not a Yahoo Boy’ and ‘Criminals trying to arrest criminals’.

Adeyinka Junaid, a 500-Level computer science student at OAU, told University World News a similar story to Nebiu’s account of two months earlier. This time, the arrested students were taken to the EFCC’s office in Ibadan. Like Nebiu, Junaid worries that being linked to crime might harm his career prospects.

The arrested students had their names taken before being questioned and having their devices searched. Again, their names were allegedly published as being fraudsters without any investigation. The EFCC later responded to complaints by removing the names from the website, but not before some media had already reported on it.

Legal action

Human rights lawyer Festus Ogun told University World News: “I can confirm that some of the students have approached the court for redress, and we are to represent some of them in court. We firmly believe that the EFCC cannot act with such reckless impunity without any consequences.”

Ogun says some of the EFCC’s actions, including publishing suspects’ names and photographs, were illegal and unconstitutional and amounted to a violation of the suspects’ right to human dignity. “Even if they paraded them [only as] suspected fraudsters; why put out their names? Sometimes perception is reality. You cannot continue to destroy people’s names and go scot-free.”

Ogun says anyone who has had their constitutional or fundamental rights violated may apply to the High Court for redress. Remedies include erasure of any untoward publication, an award of damages against the EFCC, and compelling the EFCC to apologise.

However, EFCC spokesperson Dele Oyewale told University World News that, when arrests are made, it is usually based on reliable intelligence. In their reporting, they claim to ensure that they use ‘alleged’ or ‘suspected’ to indicate that individuals concerned are suspects only and have not been declared guilty by a court.

Oyewale denied that students are being specifically targeted and said arrests are “non-discriminatory and not selective”.

“Anywhere you go in the world, that is how law enforcement agencies operate. We have never stated whether [suspects] are guilty or not until the court of competent jurisdiction pronounces them as such. When the suspects were arrested, that’s why we used the terms ‘suspected’ or ‘alleged’.

Of the arrested Obafemi Awolowo University students, only 11 have appeared in court.

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