Despite efforts by security operative, Governor Bello Matawalle appears helpless as bandits take over the state, ENigeria Newspaper reports.
GSM operators in Zamfara State have shut down their base stations in line with the Nigerian Communications Commission’s mandate that all telecom sites in the state be shut down due to the “pervasive security scenario” in the state, Sunday PUNCH learned on Saturday.
To one of our reporters, a source from the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria confirmed that all telecoms had followed the directive.
On Saturday afternoon, ENigeria Newspaper learned that Governor Bello Matawalle, who appears powerless as the situation worsens, had purportedly instructed the Nigeria Communications Commission – NCC to instruct telecom providers to shut down base stations across the state.
Meanwhile, PUNCH previously reported that a leaked memo signed by the NCC’s Executive Vice-Chairman, Prof Umar Danbatta, and issued to one of the telecom operators on Friday indicated that due to insecurity in the state, the immediate stoppage of all telecommunications services had become necessary.
The NCC boss stated in a letter titled “Re: Shutdown of all telecom sites in Zamfara State” that the shutdown, which would last from September 3 to September 17 in the first instance, was to allow relevant security agencies to carry out required activities in order to address the state’s security challenge.
“In accordance with the requirement, you are hereby required to shut down all sites in Zamfara State, as well as any site(s) in neighboring states that could supply telecoms service in Zamfara State,” the document said in part.
In the first instance, the facility will be closed for two weeks (September 3–17, 2021). This situation necessitates immediate action on your part.”
Meanwhile, an ALTON insider told one of our correspondents that the operators had no choice but to follow the NCC’s mandate, which is the telecommunications industry’s regulating authority.
“The letter was sent by the NCC, and it is for all of the operators,” the insider said.
What do you anticipate telcos to do when the government issues directions or when the regulator issues a directive?
“When we consider the implications for residents, we must ask why the telecom infrastructure was shut down in the first place. Citizens should be asking themselves this question.
It’s for their own good. I can’t comment on how the shut-down order works because they’re listening to us as we speak.”
…over 240 base stations shutdown as instructed by Governor Bello Matawalle
However, one of our correspondents discovered that Zamfara State has approximately 248 base stations that have been decommissioned.
In its ‘2020 Subscriber/Network Data Report,’ the NCC noted that in 2020, mobile and fixed operators, as well as collocation and infrastructure businesses, had a total of 33,832 towers, while operators had a total of 36,998 base stations.
According to the survey, Jigawa, Ebonyi, Gombe, Yobe, and Zamfara were the states with the fewest base stations, with Zamfara having 248. It did, however, name Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Rivers, and the Federal Capital Territory as the top five states with the most towers.
A base station, according to the report, is a fixed transceiver that serves as the primary communication point for one or more wireless mobile devices, as well as a central communication point for wireless devices.
“Essentially, to take down the network, you have to shut down the base stations,” a telecom industry source said. The average base station in the state is controlled remotely and communicates with a server. If I want to turn it off, I use the remote shutdown button.
Every base station has something to communicate. As a result, the monitoring crew can control it from afar. Please keep in mind that this is a government request.
I’m not sure how the logistics will work out, but each base station has a security person on duty who is responsible for running the generator every day. They’ll simply turn off the generator, which will result in a complete shutdown.”
…subscribers face 14-day mobile phone blackout as bandits terrorize state
Residents of Zamfara State may be unable to make phone calls, send text messages, or even access the internet as a result of the directive’s execution.
Nigeria has 192,413,613 active phone customers and 144,949,194 active internet users in the first quarter of 2021, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Zamfara State had 2,177,431 active phone customers and 1,592,746 active internet subscribers, with a landmass of 15,352 square miles and a population of 4,353,533.
According to a trustworthy source at one of the telecom companies, operators must shut down their base stations in order to fulfill the instruction, and users will be unable to interact or use the internet as a result.
“If all the providers shut down their base stations, there will be no communication in the state again,” the person stated. The base stations communicate with one another and are linked. When you make a call, one base station contacts the next, which is why it is mobile.
So, if a state’s base stations are turned off, there will be no contact. They won’t be able to make phone calls, send text messages, or go online.
“Although if a base station is located in a border town and is shut down, it will harm that specific area in the two states, but only that area. Other states will be unaffected because their own base stations are operational.”
The operators were already ordered to shut down any sites in neighboring states that could supply telecoms service in Zamfara State, according to the leaked document.
…leaked letter shows Governor Bello Matawalle asked NCC to order shutdown
The NCC’s decision came in reaction to a letter from the Office of the Governor of Zamfara State under Governor Bello Matawalle to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, according to Sunday PUNCH.
According to AFP, the leaked letter titled “Temporary Shutdown of GSM Networks,” dated August 31, 2021, said in part, “Following the escalation, the Zamfara State Security Council resolved that additional measures for public safety and strengthening the battle against banditry in the State should be taken.”
“A task force was formed as a result to ensure that the new regulations are followed. One of the most significant obstacles to countering banditry, according to the council, is the issue of informers who utilize mobile networks to communicate with bandits about army movements. Bandits also take use of the networks’ availability to organize their attacks.”
According to the report, a representative of an international non-governmental organization with a presence in the country stated that they could no longer connect with their team on the ground via phone or the internet.
Meanwhile, the NCC instruction came exactly six months after President Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) proclaimed Zamfara State a no-fly zone due to the security issue on March 3, 2021.
Despite this and other government attempts, over 500 people have been killed in the state, and hundreds, including schoolchildren, have been kidnapped in the same time period.
The kidnapping of 73 students from Government Day Secondary School, Kaya, in the state’s Maradun Local Government Area, was the most recent of these kidnappings.
Shehu Mohammed, the Police Public Relations Officer for Zamfara State Command, stated in a statement on Wednesday that the kidnapping occurred after the bandits invaded the school at 11:22 a.m. The robbers released five of the students the next day, while the remaining students remain in prison.
However, the state government was obliged to announce the closure of all elementary and secondary schools in the state as a result of the recent incident. The state’s governor, Bello Matawalle, also enforced a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
NB: Zamfara is a Nigerian state in the northwestern part of the country. Gusau is the capital, and Bello Matawalle is the current governor. The area was a part of Sokoto State until 1996. The Hausa and Fulani peoples make up the majority of Zamfara’s population. The Zamfarawa are primarily found in the local governments of Anka, Gummi, Bukkuyum, and Talata Mafara.