Residents of Sokoto metropolis on Wednesday expressed mixed reactions over the shutdown of telecommunications services in the state.
The Sokoto State government announced on Monday that services had been cut in 14 of the 23 local government areas of the state as part of the efforts to check banditry.
On the field
This reporter was in Dange Shuni local government, one of the highlighted areas on Monday, around 12 noon when she noticed the network outage.
Returning to Sokoto metropolis at 5 p.m., she found the same situation as residents complained about the disruptions it caused to their business.
However, at about 10 p.m., network reception was eventually restored in the city centre.
Bilikisu Suleiman, who sells soft drinks in the metropolis, said she was trying to communicate with her customers online when she noticed there was no network.
She assumed it was the usual network hitch to be restored at a later time, until people around her started asking her if she had network on her phone.
“There were uncertainties about when it would be restored. People were speculating that it will be restored later at night or in a week. But I was hoping that the network gets restored soon because I am not from Sokoto and I was scared,” she told our reporter.
“It affected my business because some clients who make purchases online were shut out and I was worried about how to communicate with my family and friends.”
Chidera, (some of the respondents wished to be addressed with their first names), a businessman in the capital city, was frustrated because he was trying to reach his debtor at the time.
A roadside tea and bread seller, Ado Maishai, also said the period he could not communicate was difficult because he had a lot of people to call but he couldn’t.
He said the government should have made adequate publicity before shutting down the network as done in other states where network has been cut.
He, however, said he did not mind the network interference “so that the government can tackle the banditry menace”.
A Point of Sale operator and airtime seller, Bala Aliyu, lamented that during the network failure, he could not sell airtime or make transfers for his customers.
“It was really difficult for me because out of 10 transactions, seven requires me to transfer money from one account to another,” he said.
But he also supported the government’s measure, saying “it is a good development because it doesn’t make sense to be making money when there is no peace”.
Qosim Suleiman, a journalist with Vision FM, a local radio station in the state, was worried the measure would affect his media organisation in producing its daily news bulletins, particularly because they also report happenings outside the state.
“I was on the field in the outskirt of Sokoto with two colleagues when they complained that they did not have network on their MTN sims. But I did because I was using Airtel. It was when I got to the metropolis that I heard similar complaints,” he said.
Mr Suleiman said although he is scared of the effects of the measure, it should be enforced if it would bring peace and security to the state.
But Victor, (he also provided only one name), a printer in the city centre, opposed the network outage because there would be no one to contact “if things go wrong”.
“I was afraid because I was thinking the bandits were coming to the metropolis to kidnap and there was no means of contacting my family and friends,” he added.
The state government said the measure will remain in place until it is deemed to have achieved its aim.
Sokoto, like other states in the north, has witnessed an upsurge in banditry in recent months leading to a renewed onslaught by the military to rout the bandits.
A similar move of cutting telecommunications and other measures were employed in Zamfara State to curb the activities of bandits. This has led to the displacement of the bandits who have fled to other states.
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