Telecoms services shut down for two weeks in Zamfara, neigbouring cities cage banditry


NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta

Citing rising cases of insecurity in Zamfara and adjourned cities, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has directed all telecommunications providers to shut down services in Zamfara State from September 3.

This came as the last move that may totally shut down every economic activity in the Zamfara as the State Governor, Bello Matawalle had last week announced the closure of all weekly markets in the state as part of measures to address the worsening security situation.

According to a letter addressed to the Chief Executive Officers of the telecoms companies, a copy of which was sighted by The Guardian, the decision is “to enable relevant security agencies to carry out required activities towards addressing the security challenges in the state.”

The letter titled “Re: Shutdown of All Telecom Sites in Zamfara State” was signed by the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta.

“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,” the letter read in part.

In line with this requirement, 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 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,” the letter read.

While the directive was specific about Zamfara State, the reference to any other facilities in any site(s) in neighbouring states that could provide telecommunications service in Zamfara State, means that other states sharing boundaries with the state would be affected by the shutdown.

According to industry experts, a service signal from a cell tower could reach up to 45 miles away, depending on the technology of the cellphone network. Northwestern Zamfara shares boundaries with Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna, and President Buhari’s Katsina State. To achieve a total shutdown of service, the operators would also have to shut some of their sites in the neighbouring states as directed by the regulator.

The Guardian also cited a letter dated August 3, written to the NCC from the office of 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 Zamfara 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.”

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