Last Friday, mobile network providers were directed by Nigeria’s telecom regulator to shut down communications in Zamfara for two weeks “to enable relevant security agencies to carry out required activities towards addressing the security challenge in the state,” the Nigeria Communications Commission said in a letter to a telecom firm.
Zailani Bappa, a media adviser to the Zamfara State governor told CNN Wednesday from neighbouring Kaduna State that the suspension of phone services “gives security forces the upper hand against the bandits.”
Some Zamfara residents told CNN they endorsed the government’s decision to shut down communications in the state even though it came at a cost.
“I left Zamfara for Kaduna yesterday (Tuesday) because of the ban on mobile networks,” a resident, Hamdan Shinkafi, told CNN. “I sell phones online. Since there is no network, there is no way I can sell my gadgets, but I’m not bothered about that because it’s for the best,” he added.
Shinkafi said many locals were in support of the phone blackout which runs simultaneously with the ongoing military operations in Zamfara.
“I’m in full support of the ban. Many people in Zamfara also support it,” Shinkafi said. “Before I left, soldiers were combing through forests in search of bandits… Before now, everyone has been living in fear because of the bandits.”
Another resident, Ahmad Maishanu, told CNN many locals were “trooping into neighbouring states where they can make phone calls.”
“I’m in Abuja. I won’t return to Zamfara until the phone blackout is lifted,” he stated, adding “some residents were not initially happy with the network disruption, but they are now jubilating following the military operations going on in the state.”
Zamfara and other neighboring north western states have been hit with several mass kidnappings by ransom-seeking gangs this year.
The Zamfara government had earlier suspended the transportation of livestock beyond the state’s borders while ordering the closure of weekly markets.