By Okoh Aihe
In my local environment, they say when a fight between two gets tough, you no longer use one hand, you resort to your inner steel and deploy your two hands in order to ward off what might be a potentially lethal situation. It means desperate measures become exigent in order to stay away from danger.
The Nigerian government did just that weeks ago when it suspended telecom services in some states of the Northern part of the country in order to get a stronger hold on the war against terror. These are desperate times. Even the signs of pain and discomfort are clear enough for the visually challenged while the loud wailing of victims, those lucky enough to survive, and their loved ones, fill the chambers of even those hard of hearing.
But it was a security measure and remonstrations hardly intruded. Not from telecoms subscribers or from operators. Even the regulatory authority of the telecommunications industry, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), supported the measure because of the overall projected end result of achieving stability in those states. Dear friends, in war, Ola Rotimi wrote in Kurunmi, everything goes. We may not agree that the nation is at war but it is worth observing that people of goodwill across the nation are in support of every action of government to restore the country to peace while saying a silent prayer for the security forces who put their lives on the line for others to enjoy some measure of peace.
What didn’t seem probable a few years ago actually happened, and I am hoping that we can learn a little lesson from this because it is the responsibility of government to take measures that can guaranty peace when the state and its people arethreatened, as we have seen in recent times. In taking those measures, some things will give, the citizenry will suffer inconvenience, businesses will face hard times, society will face uncertainty, and in fact some people will pay the ultimate price. It is the kind of pain that makes tomorrow an eternity. But it does come to an end, which is why government needs supportand understanding even when it hurts to do so.
In the height of such security decision, telecoms services were affected in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna. It was a matter of life and death. The operators complied absolutely. Afterall, there has to be life and peace in an environment for business activities to take place. But the good news is that the service ban is being lifted gradually. The restoration move started in Kaduna State when Samuel Aruwan, Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs said the “Kaduna State Government has contacted the relevant federal agencies to effect the immediate restoration of telecommunications services which were suspended in some local government areas.”
He confirmed that, along with the other measures in the security containment order, the telecoms shutdown had helped the security agencies to achieve some results which the security will reel out soon.
Barely 48 hours later, the governor of Zamfara State, MrMatawalle Bello, also broke the good news to his people at an event in Gasau. “I want to announce today (Saturday) that we have taken a decision to lift the ban on telecommunications in the state,” attributing the development to encouraging reports attained in the nooks and crannies of the state by the security forces.
Just like the wave of closure began, the wave of opening has started most encouragingly. It is my reasonable prayers that the remaining states should also re-evaluate prevailing developments in their environments and take valuable decisions.
However, there is a shade of difference in the decision reached by the two governors. A source at the NCC told this writer that while the Kaduna State Government actually had a security meeting, appraised the situation before reaching a decision and doing a former letter to regulator, there has been no formal communications from Zamfara whose governor seems to have spoken to satiate the expectations of his people. My little appeal therefore is for the governor to do the needful by formally writing to the NCC to take the appropriate step of instructing the operators on the next line of action.
Having stated the above, I wish to point out that there are lessons to be learnt. It is the responsibility of the various government to stake strategic and decisive actions. It is also the responsibility of the people, including corporate citizens to obey such decisions. In the concerned states, Nigerians played their roles and the operators on their part bore huge financial losses which they never complained about. Everybody had a reason to complain, including businesses because it is the responsibility of government to guaranty peace and security.
But there are actions are going on various parts of the country and those in the frontline have our prayers. However time has come to look at the decisions that were reached to suspend services. An NCC source told me that decisions were reached to achieve certain security objectives which NCC has no way of confirming whether such objectives have been achieved.
Such uncertainty will always be there. This is why we are calling for a review of the entire process, the closures of telecom services across some states, to ascertain if objectives were met. There has to be concerted efforts to document the process in order to get to the truth which will unveil the successes and contradictions within such high-end decisions. What fills the void when services are in abeyance? Since security matters are always evolving, revealing new faces and frontiers every day, there is a compelling need to develop workable telecoms template that can be used in moments of need.
It doesn’t have to be shutdown for shutdown sake or because it has been done in other places. It has to go beyond that. Because a shutdown affects people, businesses, even security objectives and government itself. It’s a last desperate measure but it must come with results that the people can see and feel. A shutdown has to affect and enable the peace we all desire in the country.
While this has been a long, painful ride, it is important to encourage all stakeholders that a journey comes to an end at a point no matter its indeterminate capacity. With a pleasant homogeneity in thoughts and commitment, present experiences will soon yield to a beautiful day where life and businesses enjoy safety and successes.