Sokoto government shuts down telecoms operations to combat insecurity

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The Sokoto state government has shut down telecommunications networks in 14 local governments to check the increasing spate of insecurity in the state. Sokoto now joins Zamfara and Katsina on the list of states where telecommunications networks have been shut down.

Muhammad Bello, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor Aminu Tambuwal said that the action was a response to the state of insecurity in the state. He said the state was collaborating with the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to shut down communication services in the affected LGAs.

 “About three weeks after it approved an Executive Order in response to the situation of insecurity in the eastern flank of Sokoto State, Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on Monday disclosed the state’s collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to block services of communications operations in 14 local government areas of the state,” Bello said.

Before the shutdown, there have been other measures in place to combat insecurity under the Security Challenges (Containment) order. Under the order, motorists were barred from plying certain roads, not more than three persons could board vehicles and the sale/transportation of animals was suspended.

Zamfara state, also under the scourge of banditry shut down telecoms services on September 3 in a bid to curb the criminal activity. It was the first state to blackout communication services after an order from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Katsina state also ordered operators to shut down services in 13 of its 24 local governments. The home state of President Muhammadu Buhari has experienced school abductions over the past year. SBM Intel pointed that in 19 incidents dated from March 2020, 1,409 students and 17 teachers have been abducted in Zamfara and Katsina states.

Shutting down telecommunications services might have a ripple effect though as it would adversely affect people and businesses. In case of emergencies there can be no communication and this has left people with mixed feelings.

This is not the first time telecoms networks will be shut down though. In an attempt to combat the terrorist activities of Boko Haram in 2013, the Federal Government shut down telecommunications services in three states in the northeast; Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.

There are also doubts as to the efficacy of these shutdown orders because it affects all and sundry. As such, there are worries that the shutdown is infringing on people’s right to communication and expression.

Media Rights Agency, through its Communications Officer, Mr Idowu Adewale in a statement released when Zamfara telecoms network was shut down, said that it was infringing on the people’s right to expression and access to information.

“There is no evidence anywhere in the world that shutting down communication services, including access to the internet and telephone communication, helps improve security, prevent terrorist attacks, or to stop them,” he said.

“Indeed, common sense and available evidence indicate that the more likely result from such a measure is that the operations of security agencies and emergency services will be thwarted by the obstruction of vital public communications during periods of terrorist attacks when their services are most needed,” he finished.

For those whose livelihoods depend on the sale of recharge cards or phone and phone accessories, it is more than combating insecurity; they are also fighting for survival. For some, they are willing to bear the brunt of this order as long as it works but it begs the question, how long will it last.


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