Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of NCC

Insecurity: Government shuts telecoms services in Zamfara, others as NCC notifies Telcos

*Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission explains the directive to shut down telecoms sites for two weeks is to enable relevant security agencies to perform required activities towards addressing security challenges in the state and environs

*The bandits and their informers take advantage of the availability of mobile telecoms networks to communicate about the movements of government troops and coordinate their attacks  ─Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State

Gbenga Kayode│ ConsumerConnect

In view of the declining security situation and the necessity to protect consumers and critical telecoms infrastructure across the North-West region of the country, the Federal Government through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has directed all telecoms services providers (Telcos) to shut down services in Zamfara and adjoining states for two weeks, effective from September 3, 2021.

ConsumerConnect reports the government’s directive came as the last-ditch measure that may completely shut down economic activities in the North-West state of the country.

Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State

It was gathered Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State, recently announced the closure of all weekly markets in the state as part of practical measures to address the worsening security situation in the enclave.

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Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the telecoms regulatory Commission, reportedly wrote and signed a letter titled, “Re: Shutdown of All Telecom Sites in Zamfara State”, addressed to the Chief Executive Officers of the concerned telecoms companies.

The NCC EVC/ CEO wrote: “The pervading security situation in Zamfara has necessitated an immediate shutdown of all telecommunications services in the state from today, September 3, 2021.

“This is to enable relevant security agencies to carry out the required activities towards addressing the security challenge in the state.”

The Commission stated: “In line with this requirement, Globacom is hereby directed to shut down all sites in Zamfara State and any states in neighbouring states that could provide telecommunications services in Zamfara State.

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“The site shut down is for two weeks from September 3 to September 17, 2021, in the first instance. Your urgent action in this regard is required.”

Implications for other states in the North-West region

Whereas the directive is specifically for Zamfara State, the reference to any other facilities in any site(s) in neighbouring states that could provide telecommunications services in Zamfara State, means that other states sharing boundaries with the state would be affected by the shutdown.

In this regard, industry experts have explained this to mean that a service signal from a cell tower could reach up to 45 miles away, depending on the technology of the cellphone network, according to report.

Telecoms sites

Northwestern Zamfara shares boundaries with Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna, and Katsina State, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state.

In order to achieve a total shutdown of services in this region of the country, it was said that the operators would also have to shut some of their sites in the neighbouring states as directed by the regulator.

Report as well cited Governor Matawalle’s earlier letter to NCC, dated August 3, requesting the shutdown of telecoms service in the state.

The Zamfara State Governor stated: “Following the escalation of insecurity in the state, the Zamfara State Security Council resolved that extra measures for public safety and strengthening the battle against banditry in the state should be taken.

Accordingly, a task force was set up to ensure that the new measures are enforced.”

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Matawalle also wrote: “The Council noted that one of the greatest hurdles to combating banditry is the issue of informers, who use mobile networks to communicate with bandits about the movements of troops.

“The bandits also take advantage of the availability of the networks to coordinate their attacks.”

Meanwhile, it was learnt a top security source has disclosed that Zamfara State is fast becoming ‘a huge source of worry’ to the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the military was planning a massive offensive in the coming days, reports The Punch.

The source was quoted to have said, that “Zamfara State has been a huge source of worry to the government. And whenever a military offensive is being planned, bandits always get tipped off.

“So, the strategy is to block phone access for now so that criminals would not be able to communicate with one another.”

It is recalled the Federal Government, in 2013, blocked Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) networks in Borno State, for several months in a move to curb the activities of Boko Haram and other insurgents in the North-East region of the West African country.

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