Residents of Kebbi, Sokoto and Katsina states say they are ready to bear the socio-economic cost of the telecommunication shutdown in neighbouring Zamfara State, if the measure will rid them of bandits.
Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), they said the inconveniences occasioned by the shutdown were obvious, but described such inconveniences as being ‘too inconsequential’ compared with the desire to regain their freedom from killers and kidnappers.
Some of them even expressed anger that issues on ‘effect of the shutdown’ were being raised, when such a decisive measure was aimed at safeguarding lives and property.
“I am sure the negative effect will revolve around hindrance of social and economic activities; by the time bandits kill you and you are no longer alive, how do you engage in those activities?
“In any case, even if you are lucky to remain alive under the atmosphere of threat by bandits, how do you engage in social and economic activities?” one of the respondents queried.
Bena is one of the towns in Kebbi State sharing boundaries with Zamfara, and is also partially affected by the shutdown in telecommunication services, following the directive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that telecom services to Zamfara State and its environs , be disconnected, effective September 3.
In an interview with NAN, residents of Bena, in spite of the hardships occasioned by telephone blackout in the area, commended security agencies for the success recorded in the ongoing efforts to clear the state of bandits.
Some of them who spoke to our correspondent after accessing telecom service from neighbouring communities, said in spite of challenges, they were elated by measures being taken to rid their community of bandits.
One of the residents, Alhaji Muhammad Ya’u, said although communication with relations had become difficult, he had sought for other options, and was prepared to make such sacrifice for the next “100 years”.
According to him, they are ready to make whatever sacrifice that will guarantee their safety from the many years of killings by bandits.
“We consider the development (shutdown) as a bitter pill, which we have to swallow to be free from the clutches of bandits terrorising and killing our brothers and sisters.
“If you can recollect, many years ago, Nivaquine tablet used to be the most bitter pill to swallow, but it was the most effective remedy against malaria fever disease.
“We were closing our eyes and swallowing it to get well because we did not want malaria to kill us; in the current scenario, I see the ‘telecommunication shutdown’ as the Nivaquine tablet, and the bandits are the ‘Malaria’ disease,” he analysed.
Another resident, Alhaji Nasiru Bena, a businessman, said it was unthinkable and annoying that some people are even viewing the telecom shutdown as a ‘worrisome development’.
“We do not consider the shutdown as a measure that has resulted in hardship or any difficulty; we had already been facing the worst of these (hardships) as a result of attacks and kidnappings by bandits.
“We lost our relatives, brothers and sisters to banditry on daily basis, and our businesses have not been striving, hence, we are not only happy with the measures taken, but also participating in providing information to security agents,”he fumed .
According to him, markets stopped operating many months ago, even before the shutting down of telecom services, adding that customers had ceased coming, for fear of being kidnapped or killed.
Also in an interview, Yakubu Zubairu, a cellphone businessman from Danko/Wasagu area, who just came to Olumbo mini market in Birnin Kebbi, told NAN that the shutdown had an impact on commerce, but added that the sacrifice was worth it.
“Those who sell telephone recharge cards are particularly affected by the shutdown, but we also have to appreciate the fact that the sellers must first be alive, before they can sell,” he said.
A fruit seller, Malam Mamman Mahi, said that the shutdown had affected their business negatively in the area.
“We face a lot of difficulties calling for fruit supplies from Birnin Kebbi or Yauri, to the area for our shops.
“I probably have a lot of perishable items at the motor park sent to me by my suppliers, but they (suppliers) cannot reach out to me; I still wonder how our business is going to survive, but certainly, we need security for the business itself to strive,” he said.
Mahi also said they believed that their personal security and safety were more important than the temporary disruption of their socio-economic activities as a result of lack of communication.
Also, a cross section of Sokoto residents commended the Federal Government for shutting down telecommunications networks in neighbouring Zamfara State.
They told NAN that already, they had started feeling the positive impact of the measure, and were in fervent prayers for government to succeed in routing out the miscreants.
Alhaji Yaro Gobirawa, former Chairman, Sokoto State Traders Association, said after barely few days of operation by security agents, traders now moved freely within Zamfara axis without fear of informants notifying bandits of their movements.
Gobirawa said the shutdown of network and the military operations had reduced the apprehension of traders and commercial vehicle operators, who, hitherto, had to be watching over their shoulders for fear of being monitored by bandits.
He suggested the extension of such action to Sokoto and other nearby states experiencing similar challenges of banditry.
A Journalist, Yusuf Muhammad Ladan, also lauded the efforts, stressing that bandits had network of communications and shutting down the system would force them to either surrender or come out of their hideouts.
While acknowledging the inconveniences occasioned by the exercise, he however said nothing could be compared with safety of lives and property.
“First of all, one needs to be ‘alive’ before getting ‘inconvenienced’; if the former is not in place, talking about the latter does not arise,” he analysed .
He also suggested the extension of telecommunications shutdown to cover Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina and Niger states, as runaway bandits scrambled for places to hide.
Also, Deputy Chairman of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) Sokoto State Chapter, Mr Babangida Sa’idu, called for the extension of the shutdown to cover more than just one state.
” The measure had great impact as information reaching us indicated that security operatives were confronting the bandits and succeeding; but we heard bandits are migrating to other states,” he said.
A commercial vehicle operator, Malam Adamu Shuni, said the mere presence of security personnel that mounted check-point, had reduced tension on the highways.
” Although there is no communication between drivers as was the case before the shutdown, the current operation is making my colleagues and passengers to feel secured,” Shuni said.
Similarly in Katsina metropolis, residents said the shutdown had made it impossible to communicate with their relatives in Zamfara state, just as it affected their businesses.
One of the residents, Alhaji Suleiman Yellow, said for some days now, he had been trying to know the condition of his sick brother in Gusau, to no avail.
“I am very disturbed because I left him in a critical condition, but I have not heard from anyone about his condition.
“Due to the security challenges, traveling from Katsina to Zamfara is risky at the moment, and that is why we can not embark on a journey to check on him.
“But the shutting down of network is in our interest; we have started seeing the result of the efforts of our security agencies in Zamfara.
” Government should be commended for such effort; I believe if such a measure is taken here in Katsina, the bandits will also be eliminated to pave way for peace,” he said.
Another resident, Alhaji Abubakar Abdullahi, a civil servant, said the measure was satisfying, in spite of the inconveniences created.
“There are some of my relatives in some parts of Zamfara, where there are serious security challenges, and they were planning to relocate to Katsina.
“But with with these measures in place, we are optimistic the challenges will become things of the past, therefore the relatives are no longer thinking of relocating,” he said. (NAN)