In what seems a classical imperceptive strategy, resulting into monumental killings, kidnapping, and showcasing Zamfara State as a bad example in the counter-insurgency campaigns, NAOSRE calls on government and Service Chiefs to live up to expectations and inject fresh blood into tired veins
Worried by the unending insecurity in Nigeria with a specific focus on Zamfara State, the National Association of Online Security Reporters (NAOSRE), during the week, undertook an overview of the various strategies adopted by security agencies to tackle insurgency as well as the mode of implementations.
Amongst other things, the association reviewed the September 4 memo signed by the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta, addressed to telecom operators directing the immediate shutdown of all telecommunications services in Zamfara state.
The memo, NAOSRE gathered, was a response to Zamfara Governor’s request to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
In the letter titled, “Re: Shutdown of all telecom sites in Zamfara State”, the NCC stated that the shutdown, which lasted from September 3 to September 17 in the first instance, was to enable relevant security agencies to carry out required activities towards addressing the security challenge in the state.
Following such instruction, over 240 base stations were shut down in the 25 years old State which has a landmass of 15,352 square miles, a population of 4,353,533 with 2,177,431 and 1,592,746 active voice and internet subscribers respectively.
However, NAOSRE’s Intelligent and Research Unit, NIRU, sadly discovered that the results from such a strategic shutdown have been a monumental disaster, killings, and kidnapping.
For instance, in the narratives of Sarkin Shanu of Shinkafi, Dr. Suleiman Shuaibu, about eight villages have been attacked and over 400 people either killed or abducted by the bandits.
The community leader who maintained that bandits are still killing the residents lamented the acute shortage of security personnel saying that about 150 villages have less than 50 soldiers and policemen providing security.
More worrisome is the fact that these unchallenged killings and kidnapping in Zamfara have made nonsense of whatever strategy behind the shutting down of the communication system given that the initiative has further added burden to Zamfara citizens who now travel to Sokoto State to make calls.
“We go to Sokoto to make telephone calls. We take transport from here in Shinkafi through bad roads and travel to Sokoto to make telephone calls just to let the world know what is happening, to speak to those we believe can save us and for the world to hear,” lamented Dr. Shuaibu.
Also, figures obtained from the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think tank, and edited by a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, showed that abductions and killings have continued in Zamfara State unabated.
According to available figures, bandits also killed four in Bugundu area of the State, after attacking a police station.
On September 11, bandits killed 12 soldiers in Mutumji, Maru Local Government Area. They also killed seven civilians in Shinkafi and Zurmi Local Government Areas on September 16, burning down the home of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Nasiru Magarya, at Magarya community.
Apart from NAOSRE, this sad development has also arrested the attention of other experts.
Speaking with Punch correspondent, Fiscal Policy Partner, and Africa Tax Leader at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Mr. Taiwo Oyedele, noted that shutting down base stations is counter-productive stressing that rather than shut down telecommunications, it should be used in tracking bandits.
He said, “With the insecurity, we have around the country, I struggle to see why you need to shut down base stations because you don’t want terrorists and bandits to call one another to arrange attacks when there is another option of allowing them to make the calls and then you track what they are saying.
“So, there are countries where words have been made into algorithms. So, you make a call and you just mention that word, it flags your phone and the authorities start monitoring all that you are doing. If they said some villagers are calling bandits and giving them information, you monitor them. That is simple. You can monitor what people are saying.
“So, when they said some bandits kidnapped schoolchildren and wanted bicycles or motorbikes, I said wow. That is a very good opportunity; just plant trackers and recorders. It makes it easy so that for one or two weeks you are gathering data and intelligence on where they are, who they are talking to and how many people are there.”
Oyedele added that Nigeria needs to change its way of tackling issues. “This approach in Nigeria that you cut off the head once there is a headache can never solve the problem,” he said.
Reacting on Sunday through a statement signed by its National President, Comrade Femi Oyewale, NAOSRE queried the decadent military strategy that orchestrated shut down of telephony services which seem to serve only the warped promoters of Boko Haram while Zamfara State sinks deeper into irretrievable security suffocation and development inertia.
He lamented that the first-hand narratives in the counter-insurgency struggle in Zamfara indicate that the once peaceful state is currently drenched in the blood of innocent humans.
“NAOSRE is heavily grieved for those who have lost their lives or were injured in the renewed devastating onslaughts against innocent citizens in Zamfara State.
“Our deepest sympathies go to the families and loved ones of victims for none should be made to pay such a dear price.
“As an association,” Oyewale noted “We have been in the forefront in entrenching sustainable depth to the relationship between government, security agencies and the governed with the aim to enhance a more compassionate and progressive society.
“We hereby call again on government, once again, to fish out sponsors and other individuals behind these unacceptable policy somersaults, resulting in an unnecessary waste of citizens including those seeking to stoke and manipulate the people’s anger in order to advance political objectives.
“NAOSRE hereby aligns with the position of PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Taiwo Oyedele for government and security agencies to be guarded in the deployment of technology to end the insurgency.
“The cooperative and productive embrace between the people and government which NAOSRE has championed should serve as an added oxygen for security agents to override counterproductive strategies,” he stated