The shutdown of telecommunications in Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina States have been hailed as an effective strategy to end banditry in Northwest, however, investigation reveals otherwise.
In the past two months, governors of Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina States have instituted different measures to curb banditry in their states.
Parts of the measures include ban on sales of petroleum products in jerry cans, ban on weekly markets, ban of phone charging shops and other stringent measures.
Of all the measures, the suspension of telecommunications services has been the most controversial. According to the government, the measure will reduce the impacts of informants and reduce coordination by bandits.
While there have been cases of mass surrendering by bandits, however, the stringent measures have not stopped cases of killings by bandits in the region.
Recall the gruesome murder of 43 persons by gunmen in Goronyo Local Government Area in the Eastern Senatorial District of Sokoto State.
The bizarre attack happened at the weekly market in the community when gunmen opened fire on traders and buyers in the market.
Also, in October, there was another attack in Ungwan Lalle market in Sabon Birni Local Government of Sokoto State, leaving 20 persons dead after sporadic shooting by bandits.
The argument by the government that shutdown of network will reduce the capabilities of bandits to coordinate ransom collection was put to test when bandits kidnapped Iorliam Jennifer, a prospective corps member in Zamfara State.
According to reports, Ms Jennifer was kidnapped in Zamfara State while on her way to NYSC orientation camp in Kebbi State.
Media report indicates that the families have been contacted for N2 million ransom for her release. This development raises more question on the effectiveness of the policy by the government.
Tambuwal wants end to network shutdown
Governor Aminu Tambuwal, in the aftermath of the Goronyo attack, said the state had written to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for the suspension to be lifted.
Tambuwal stated this when he received the governors of Northeast.
There have also been reports of bandits moving to other states to seek haven. On Tuesday, bandits reportedly killed people in a mosque, in a fresh attack in Niger State.
Zamfara residents lament
Residents of these states continue to bear the pain of the shutdown of the telecommunications network in these states. The measures have further compounded the already dire economic situation in the state.
Due to the security situation in the state, residents of Zamfara State, lamented the impact of the policy and the inability of the government to meat its obligations.
Usman Dangani, a pensioner in the state wondered why the government can provide inventive for ‘repentant bandits’ but unable to pay pension and gratuity.
He said that the state government can spend millions of Naira for any bandit that claims to have surrendered his outdated arms and ammunition but the same government had refused to pay pensioners their gratuity even their constitutional monthly salaries.
Aminu Maisare, another pensioner in the state said the fiscal crisis in the state is making things harder for the residents.
While government continues to seek out measures to address the situation, the tales of residents of the region is mixed towards the current policy of network shutdown.