Following the incessant security problems in Zamfara and neighboring states, the federal government has ordered telecommunications service providers to shut down services in the state for two weeks from September 3.
The directive was issued by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as part of expansive measures for a complete shutdown of every economic activity in Zamfara as the state governor, Bello Matawalle, last week announced the closure of all weekly markets in the state to curb the security crisis.
The decision, LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered yesterday, was at the request of the state government. The state has become the hotbed of banditry even after the federal government about six months ago declared the state a ‘no fly zone’.
A letter addressed to the chief executive officers of the telecoms companies said the decision was to enable relevant security agencies carry out required activities towards addressing the security challenges in the state.
The letter was signed by the executive vice chairman and chief executive officer of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta.
Following this development, the NCC directed the operators “to shut down all sites in Zamfara State and any site(s) in neighbouring states that could provide telecommunications service in the state.
As a result, Leadership Sunday gathered that residents of Zamfara State were on Friday night making frantic calls and sending last minute text messages to relatives and friends outside that state. And in emergency situations, some residents are planning to travel as far as villages in Funtua, Katsina State to make phone calls or reach out to relatives.
The site shutdown is for two weeks (September 03-17, 2021) in the first instance. Your urgent action in this regard is required,” the letter added.
A service signal from a cell tower according to experts could reach up to 45 miles away, depending on the technology of the cellphone network. Zamfara is in the North West of the country and shares boundaries with Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna, and Katsina State. It, therefore, suggests that a total shutdown of services by operators could affect telecoms sites in the neighbouring states.
The federal government’s decision stemmed from a letter dated August 3, written to the NCC from the office of the Zamfara State governor, asking for the shut down of telecoms service in the state.
Part of the letter reads: “Following the escalation of insecurity in the state, the 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. 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.
The NCC neither confirmed nor denied the directive when contacted to respond on the matter yesterday.