On the yanking off of Telecom Services in parts of Kaduna State

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By Fr. Williams Kaura Abba

It’s been weeks and months since the Governor and Government of Kaduna State, with the approval of the Federal Government gave marching orders to Telecom Operators to scale down services and in some cases, complete shut down in parts of the State. The reason advanced for such drastic action as reported by the Hon. Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan is “to assist the security agencies to carry out their operations in parts of the State”. By implication, it is hoped that security forces will be able to close in on bandits and to also check their activities in the different camps and forests in the state with a view to stopping them from launching further vitriolic attacks on hapless citizens and communities and to also deter the bandits from establishing contact with relations of kidnap victims.

It is public knowledge that the state has been under siege for years, no thanks to the criminal activities of these non state actors. Families have sold homes, properties, lands and in some cases, even collected huge loans from multiple sources to be able to pay ransom to secure the release of their loved ones. Ransoms paid so far should be in excess of billions of Naira in Kaduna State alone (excluding other forms of ransoms such as foodstuffs, petrol, motorcycles, recharge cards etc) I am at a loss regarding the proprietary and profitability of an action such as this. I find this reasoning weird for a number of reasons. I will highlight only two:

  1. Should the Telecom operators not rather be given the marching order to activate tracking devices so that from whatever direction the bandits are, they can be tracked even if they use unregistered sim cards? I do not understand, for the life of me, how you can actually win the war against banditry without network and without also enabling this very important gadget. With the help of GPRS, you can know the exact location where calls are made. This facility is available and it can be deployed for good causes. I know of a father close to me who has a tracking facility on his phone. He is able to track his child to the extent that he is able to know even the percentage of battery left on the phone of his child. The father is so protective of his child and he has real time updates about the movement of his beloved child from his Android phone. So if the child is in danger, he knows precisely what to do. This technology is available even in Kaduna and it can be exploited for this purpose. So is it really about denying the bandits access to network or the lack of will to end this madness? Pundits are attributing other mundane motives to this sad development now common place in most parts of the North West. But I refuse to give vent or oxygenate this conspiracy theory!
  2. There’s sadly too, the economic angle to this bizarre arrangement. You can only conjecture how much money is being lost on a daily basis on account of the seizure of network. While bandits are collecting and impoverishing struggling families, Government is further crippling thousands of youths who make legitimate earnings utilising telecom services. Thousands are gainfully employed by just running business centres and other sundry services. So while government insists on mounting pressure on network providers to withhold network, thousands who rely on it are run out of business, and thus, their means of livelihood (and those who depend on them) is taken away. So while the State government is trying to solve one problem, it is creating a far bigger monster that is capable of running the State amok. One can feel the anxiety and palpable anger now all over the place. Meanwhile “the big men” are able to stay connected and transact, thanks to some more powerful sophisticated gadgets. The vast majority of the hoi poloi, the poorest of the poor, are left to continue to agonise and compelled to embrace this retrogressive governmental behaviour. On the lips of common folks now is just “Allah ya isa”.

In conclusion, I ask the simple question: has this measure helped to eliminate or at best “reduced banditry to the barest minimum? Your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, let us continue to pray for the scores of Baptist members from Kakau Daji who were violently abducted in Church weeks back and are yet to regain their freedom (we hear 2 men were shot dead). Despite the seizure of network, non actors are still able to carry out their nefarious activities in such a large scale and they are able to comfortably move their spoils thick forests unchallenged. Secondly, and this is the most surprising bit, you can be sure, negotiations are ongoing between the terrorists and families of victims using “some form of communication”.

Government should rethink this reckless anti people behaviour and adopt a more forward looking strategy in order to bring these sons of perdition to their knees. The people should not be subjected to further hardships. The trauma of loosing loved ones and the huge loses they have incurred paying ransoms is enough trauma and pain.

*Fr. Willie Abba is a Priest of the Roman Catholic Church in Kaduna State.

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