The pronouncement by Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle of Zamfara State last Saturday promising to restore telecommunication network in 13 local government areas of the state by Tuesday was received with high celebration by the citizens, especially considering the impact of the shutdown strategy on the people in especially the rural communities.
While people patiently waited for the fulfilment of that promised, their hope was dashed when till yesterday the local government areas remained without telecom services even as no explanation was given by the government.
On Thursday night the state commissioner for information Ibrahim Dosara released a statement explaining reasons for the continued shutdown of networks. Citizens took to the media to express mixed opinions on the sincerity of the government in its own pronouncements.
“This is to notify the general public that following the directives by His Excellency the Governor Bello Matawalle Maradun to restore all networks of telecommunications services, the directive is on course.
The attention of the general public is therefore hereby drawn to the processes involved in the restoration of the telecommunications networks.
“These include the legal procedure of drafting and signing of the executive order permitting the restoration, the survey of the current security situation in each of the 14 local government areas to ascertain the type of arrangements to be put in place after the restoration of the telecommunications networks,
“The request for the restoration from the Minister of Communications and NCC which must be nacked up with the security reports and other bureaucratic procedures involved.
“The government therefore pleads with the good and law abiding people of the state to exercise more patience, as all the processes are on course.
“The Attorney General and Commissioner for justice has given the assurance that the executive order is almost completed and will soon be forwarded to His Excellency for signing.
“In the same vein, security situation reports from various communities and local government areas are being compiled for onward submission to the Honourable minister of Communications and digital economy along with our letter of request,” the government later explained.
But reactions trailed the u-turn of the government regarding the effect of the new development.
A legal practitioner, Barr. Bello Idris Galadi said the statement further exposed the weaknesses of the government.
He said by virtue of the statement the governor should have waited until all the procedures and conditions were fulfilled before going to the public to make the pronouncement.
He added that it should be good for a leader to make statement which the people would take with high degree of confidence and not the other way around.
“When a leader issues a statement without wider consultation he is bound to get things wrong,” Galadi added.
On the impact of communication shutdown, Galadi said the impact was less to reckon with because there had been continued recorded cases of attacks and kidnappings in the state.
“No matter what was recorded in terms of successes, we may not know because the government has not been communicating to us regarding what is happening in terms of fighting the activities of bandits across the state,” he said.
Also, speaking, Zamfara State Coordinator of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr. Abdallah, said the integrity of the governor and that of his government was at stake since he had been making statements that were not seeing the light of the day.
He said it was unfortunate that the governor promised to open the network but it had not been restored as at Thursday.
He added that when Tambuwal visited Goronyo after the massacre of his citizens he instantly made pronouncement and the NCC complied by opening the telecommunication in all the affected local governments and asked why it was different in Zamfara.
Regarding the successes of the telecommunication network, Abdallah wondered how people from the government would keep telling Zamfara citizens that successes had been recorded when people were being attacked on the daily basis.
“Even yesterday they blocked Shinkafi road three times, and we have evidence with pictures and last night they attacked several communities in various parts of the state.
“I told you a few days back that I slept at Yankara when the bandits blocked the road and the police along the border had to rely on the commuters to be accessing information because there was no network to communicate,” he said.
Another legal practitioner in Zamfara Barr. Abdullahi Ma’aji Governor Bello Matawalle may be right for not talking to Zamfara people on the reason for not re-opening of the network in other local government areas of the state.
He said there were certain executive decisions that the governor may make pronouncements over, but due to some emerging issues they may not happen as planned and the reason may not necessarily be made public.
On the successes recorded since the shutdown of the network, Ma’aji said, the measures recorded about 65% success even though he expected up to between 70% to 80%.
He emphasized that even if not for anything the crippling of the power of the informants was a good achievement because for now, they don’t have access to the network through which they can speak to the bandits in the forest.
“We all know the danger of strategic places like Garejin Mai Laina, Lalan and other places’ shutdown by the government of Zamfara, and we knew how informants took advantage of the nature of these places to cause serious problem for the innocent people,” he said.
In Kaduna, the commissioner for internal security and home affairs, Samuel Aruwan, had announced the restoration of the network services recently.
However, residents while commending the state government for restoring network services urged government to take the full war to the bandits.
A resident of Sabon Tasha, Geoffrey Akpan, claimed that bandits were still operating as the ban was in force.
“The ban of telecommunications services did not end banditry, bandits were still operating. However, we thank the state government for lifting the network ban. We also acknowledge the government’s efforts in ending the insecurity in the state.”
Another resident, Joe Haruna, decried the continued attacks of bandits on some communities especially in Ungwuan Gimbiya in Sabon Tasha: “The state government is doing its best but they should do more. Bandits have continued attacking many communities especially in Chikun local government. To be honest, during the ban of telecommunications services, reports of kidnapping were reduced but the economy was going down.”