By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor
Barely six months after declaring Zamfara State a ‘no-fly zone’, the federal government in a renewed effort to fight banditry and other forms of insecurity in the state, has shut down all telecom activities in Zamfara state.
This is following a directive by the Nigerian Communications Commission mandating all telecommunication operators in the country to stop extending services to Zamfara and its environs, effective Friday, September 03, 2021.
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The tone of the letter which was signed by the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof Umar Danbatta and addressed to the Chief Executives of all the telecom operators in the country, signifies that neighbouring states to Zamfara like Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna and Katsina among others, may be affected by the telecom black-out, considering that signal to or from a telecom tower in Zamfara could extend services up to 45 miles away.
The latest development comes on the heels of a similar directive by the governor of the State, Bello Matawalle who last week, announced the closure of all weekly markets in the state as part of measures to address the worsening security situation in the state.
Part of the NCC’s letter titled “Re: Shutdown of All Telecom Sites in Zamfara State” reads: “The pervading security situation in Zamfara State has necessitated an immediate shut down of all telecom services in the state from today, September 3, 2021. This is to enable relevant security agencies to carry out required activities towards addressing the security challenges in the state.
“In line with this 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 03-17, 2021) in the first instance. Your urgent action in this regard is required”
As usual, a conservative Public Affairs department of the Commission is yet to confirm that the letter emanates from NCC as both voices call, text messages and WhatsApp messages to the Director Public Affairs, Dr Ikechukwu Adinde were ignored.
Also, the Chairman Association of Licensed Telecom Operators in Nigeria, ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo also refused to either pick his calls or respond to inquiries on the issue, as at the time of filing this report.
However, some of the telecom service providers who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in confidence confirmed receipt of the directive and have complied with it as directed.
Sunday Vanguard gathered authoritatively that the federal government’s latest move could be a prompt response to a letter dated August 3, purportedly written to an agency of federal government by the Zamfara State Governor, asking for the shutdown of telecoms service in the state.
A close source to the agency, dictated Part of Matawale’s letter to read: “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 source said the state felt that the best strategy was to block phone access to the state so that bandits who always get tipped off whenever a military offensive is being planned, would not be able to communicate with their informers.