The telecommunication networks shutdown in the first four weeks of September covered the entire Zamfara State in order to check the activities of bandits who had held the state ransom for many years.
Before the shutdown, Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle had adopted and signed an executive order as part of the stringent measures to curtail the activities of the bandits and their collaborators.
Part of the measures included closure of all markets across the state and the suspension of business activities at some popular joints in Gusau, the state capital and other strategic places around the state as well as a ban on the activities of black marketers and hawkers of petrol as only motorists and motorbikes can buy petrol at filing stations.
As the residents battled with the stringent measures, the Nigerian Communications Commission shutdown worsened the situation more so as the ban on use of motorcycles across the state from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm was enforced.
The measures had crippled commercial activities to the extent that multitudes of breadwinners could no longer afford feeding their families.
Though the decision of the shutdown of the networks was well applauded by the residents, with full expectations of relief in the successful fight against the bandits,
it thwarted the use of GSM networks by bandits to negotiate ransoms with relatives of their captives, as well as activities of informants.
The position taken by the state government and security agencies on the fight against banditry and kidnapping was crystal and the right step towards ensuring safety of innocent lives and property, but more formidable strategies were needed to discourage free movement and further attacks by the criminals in some areas.
For effective compliance, the state government constituted a powerful committee to enforce the executive order.
This notwithstanding, the restrictions have negatively impacted on the prices of some commodities such as charcoal which was sold at N1,500 to N2,000 per bag now sold at N7,000, while a bag of rice which was sold at N20,000 to N26,000 also rapidly attracted an increase to N30,000.
The state attorney general and commissioner for justice, Barrister Junaidu Aminu, said the supply of food into the state should be allowed unhindered, lamenting; “Reports reaching me reveal that a sachet of Spaghetti sells for N1,500 at Dansadau district due to scarcity of already restricted food items.
“I have spoken to the task force committee and reminded them there is no ban on importation of food into the state, and I am sure they would have taken that into consideration during their operations, just as the main aim is to prevent bandits’ move to take over the state, and no doubt the state government and security agencies are succeeding,” he said.
The chairman, Northern Youths Assembly (NYA), Comrade Manir Haidara though lauded the shutdown as a means of curtailing the activities of bandits, lamented the lukewarm attitude of security agents and refusal to face the bandits head on.
“Our concern was refusal of the military and other security agents to move into the forest to sack bandits’ camps,” he added.
Another resident, Sani Musa Kotarkoshi, said the closure of the networks and other stringent measures had not impacted anything in the fight against bandits.
According to him, he is concerned that there is no military presence in some bandits notorious areas of Mada, Lillo and Wanke axis.
Some members of the Union of Communication in Zamfara have recounted huge losses recorded following the shutdown.
The members lamented how the four weeks statewide shutdown had crippled their business activities.
The state vice chairman of the association, Comrade Nura Muhammad, said within the period members of the Union of Communication were thrown into confusion and suffered serious losses.
“Even our families had negative experiences of the network closure as starvation hit them within the period,” he added.
According to him, the shutdown has caused huge losses among members of the association, as many of them have left Gusau and relocated to neighbouring states of Katsina, Sokoto and Zaria in Kaduna to earn a living.
He added that members of the association lost millions of naira within the period of the shutdown in the state.
“Although the decision was to find lasting solution to security challenges facing the state, therefore we must commend the Zamfara State government and the federal government in that direction,” he said.
Muhammad further appealed to the tate government to assist members of the union with additional capital for them to improve their businesses.
“I am appealing to Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle to find out modalities of assisting our members with soft loans for them to reinvigorate their business ventures considering the collapse experienced during the period,” he added.
Also in an interview, a trader, Abubakar Abubakar, described the shutdown period as calamitous as it affected his capital.
“I used to get not less than N5,000 profit every day in my POS business and the provision I am selling but during the period of the telecom shutdown, even my capital nearly vanished,” he said.
Also, the chairman, Joint Businesses Associations, Zamfara State branch, Alhaji Balan Bayis, who is also an official of the state chamber of commerce, described the suspension of shutdown in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, as a welcome development as it would go a long way in boosting socioeconomic development of the state and entire marketers.
“Although we had experienced so many challenges in business within the period of the telecoms shutdown, we must commend Zamfara State and federal government for their proactive measures to forestall the lingering insecurity challenges facing the state,” he added.