Lawmaker says military “humiliating” states under emergency by cutting phone network

Hassan El-Badawy represents Yobe in the parliament.

A member of the House of Representatives has launched a surprising attack on the Nigerian military, accusing the force of “humiliating” three northeast states under emergency rule by occasionally shutting off their telephone networks.

Hassan El-Badawy, who represents Yobe State in the House, said despite the emergency rule in the three states, where a military campaign is targeted at rooting out Islamist militants, the military lacked the power to shut off phone communication while searching for the terrorists.

On Wednesday, Mr. El-Badawy, a first term member, sponsored a motion to the House calling for a directive that full telephone communication services be restored in the affected areas, accusing the military and the federal government of violating the constitutional rights of the people of the area.

The House should resolve to “urge all relevant security agencies to reverse their orders of shutting down communication networks in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, and issue further directives to all service providers to restore communication networks to the affected states with immediate effect,” he proposed in the motion.

He recalled that “Plateau state was not subjected to this humiliation when it was (in a) state of emergency,” in an apparently crossly worded motion, which compared the present situation in the three states with the Plateau state 2004 emergency over ethno-religious crisis.

But the House, presided by speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, carefully avoided the motion, not citing it as its turn reached on Wednesday, as it appeared the resolution may be stiffly countered by lawmakers. Listed motions are supposed to be approved by the speaker before print.

Since the onset of the military campaign targeted at Boko Haram fighters, security forces have extensively applied cordons, curfews and network shutdown as they attempt to frustrate enemy fighters.

But the tactics have been severely criticized as telling on the civilian population and destroying businesses, while aid agencies say many families are increasingly having difficulties sourcing for food.

Mr. El-Badawy, said the government forces were acting “despite a clear absence of authority to temper with or cut off any communication network from emergency proclamation rule,” and the absence of such powers in the constitution, leaving the rights of Nigerians in the area “grossly violated.”

“The ugly development will prevent the civil society organization/donor development agencies and the international community from assessing situations in the affected states to advice the federal government on way forward,” he said.

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