Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State

Consumers, businesses groan as government extends shutdown of telecoms in Zamfara

*Residents say there is no telecommunications network since September 3, as it is difficult to assess the current security situation in the state

*But instead of ceasefire, what we are doing to bandits is to send them to God, so they can answer for their actions ─Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

The two-week shutdown of all telecommunications sites in Zamfara State and its environs, earlier directed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), may have been extended as telecoms consumers are yet unable to make phone calls among other services as of Saturday, September 25, 2021.

Previously, the NCC as the country’s telecoms regulatory Commission via a leaked memo to the concerned telecoms firms operating in the North-West region Friday, September 3, had directed them to shut down telecoms services in the state over continued security concerns.

ConsumerConnect had reported that the rationale for the action which saw the shutdown of about 248 telecoms sites in Zamfara was informed by the need to enable the Nigerian military and allied security agencies to tackle headlong the rising spate of killings and kidnappings in the region.

RELATED Insecurity: Government Shuts Telecoms Services In Zamfara, Others As NCC Notifies Telcos

Report as well indicated that the telecoms regulator took the action in response to a request letter from the Office of Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State to the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, in Abuja, FCT.

Subsequently, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NCC, who signed the memo, said that the immediate shutdown of all telecommunications services in the state had become necessary due to growing insecurity of lives and property in Zamfara State.

In the letter titled, ‘Re: Shutdown Of All Telecom Sites In Zamfara State’, Prof. Danbatta also noted that the shutdown, expected to last from September 3 to September 17 in the first instance, was to enable relevant security agencies to perform the required activities towards addressing the security challenge in the state.

The NCC stated in the memo to the Telcos: “In line with the requirement, you are hereby directed to shut down all sites in Zamfara State and any site(s) in neighbouring states that could provide telecommunications service in Zamfara State.

“The site shutdown is for two weeks (September 3─17, 2021) in the first instance. Your urgent action in this regard is required.”

Still complete telecoms services blackout in Zamfara

Despite the Zamfara State Government’s open acknowledgement of the considerable success recorded in the ongoing military offensive against the bandits after shutdown of telecoms services, it was learnt there is yet no telecommunications network across the state since September 3, just as it is difficult to assess the actual security situation on the ground in the area.

RELATED Banditry: Experts Disagree As Telcos Implement NCC’s Directive, Deactivate 248 Telecoms Base Stations In Zamfara

Efforts to reach many residents and telecoms consumers in the state failed as phone calls to the mobile lines of several residents failed to connect, according to report.

Telecoms consumers still waiting to access services in the state

The shutdown was originally slated to last for two weeks “in the first instance”, according to the telecoms regulator.

Likewise, as of Saturday evening, several phone calls by correspondents to different people in the state failed to connect, which signalled that the shutdown has not been lifted in Zamfara State, The Punch report also stated.

We are helpless amid continued bandits’ attacks ─Sarkin Shanu of Shinkafi

In a related development, Dr. Suleiman Shuaibu, Sarkin Shanu of Shinkafi, in Zamfara State, was quoted to have told BBC Hausa that bandits have continued to attack the residents in at least eight villages.

In his interview with the medium, he disclosed that he and other telecoms consumers had been travelling to Sokoto State to make phone calls as they were unable to do so in Zamfara State.

READ ALSO: SERAP Frowns On Shutdown Of Telecoms Services In Zamfara, Urges Government To Reverse Action

Dr. Shuaibu stated: “We go to Sokoto to make telephone calls. We take transport from here in Shinkafi through bad roads and travel to Sokoto to make telephone calls just to let the world know what is happening, to speak to those we believe can save us and for the world to hear.”

According to Sarkin Shanu, “in Shinkafi Local Government, we are in a helpless situation. In our position as the people who live in and know Shinkafi, there are no soldiers in Shinkafi.

Situation report by Nigeria Security Tracker

Though it was gathered the actual security situation in the state is difficult to assess due to the shutdown of telecommunications services in the North-West state, figures obtained from the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think tank, and edited by a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, indicated that some abductions and killings have continued in Zamfara State.

The source also stated September 3, on the day the telecommunications blackout came into effect in the state, four persons were reportedly killed, while about 50 others were abducted when gunmen attacked Ruwan Doruwa district in Maru Local Government Area of the state.

However, three days later, soldiers were reported to have killed about 20 bandits in an airstrike in Shinkafi, among several other killings and atrocities visited on a police station and the home of Nasiru Magarya, Speaker, Zamfara State House of Assembly, located at Magarya community.

There is no ceasefire for bandits in Zamfara, says Governor Matawalle

While the shutdown of telecoms services and the efforts of the military have diminished the activities of the bandits and decimated the criminals in the past weeks, some residents of the state told BBC Hausa, that bandits’ attacks and abductions still continue till this day.

RELATED Zamfara: Tackling Banditry Far Easier After Shutdown Of Telecoms Services ─Commissioner

Despite their pleas to the state government for a ceasefire, as revealed by Governor Matawalle September 10, the bandits have continued to attack residents of the state.

The Zamfara State Governor, after attending Jumat at the Dalala Mosque in Gusau, the state capital, disclosed that the bandits sent a powerful committee to plead with the government to cease fire and allow the supply of food and other essential commodities to them but that he refused, according to report.

Instead of considering the bandits’ plea for ceasefire, Matawalle rather said: “What we are doing to bandits is to send them to God, so they can answer for their actions.”

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