Monday, May 20, 2013

Military shut down telecommunications in Maiduguri as part of attack on Boko Haram

Residents lamented the collapse of telecommunications services in Maiduguri.

There has been a partial telecommunications shut down in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital over the State of Emergency declared in the state by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Residents of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital woke up on Friday to realise that what they thought was a minor problem with mobile telephone services the previous day was actually a deliberate action by the mobile networks, who are believed to be complying with directives from the Nigerian military.

Though the Nigerian military has officially kept mum on the telephone shut down, a top security official said the networks were put off as part of strategy to demobilize the insurgents in the state.

He said the reprieve the residents got, as telecommunications were restored late on Friday morning, will be "for some few hours."

He said the grounded GSM networks were part of the military strategy to slow down the communication of the Boko Haram who are spread in camps in the forest of Sambisa, Mafa, Wulgo and Kirenowa axis of Borno State.

All major national telecom carriers, MTN, GLO, ETISALAT and AIRTEL were grounded, leaving residents confused especially as there was no official information either by the network providers, the state government, or the military. Many of the residents would not speak officially for security reasons.

The Spokesman of the Joint Task Force, Sagir Musa, declined comments as he told journalists that he would not be making comment on the military operations in Bono for now.

Meanwhile, troops were, up to Thursday night seen arriving the town via roads and air; even as jet fighters were also said to have been deployed to the state.

Though the State of emergency situation has not changed the normal life of the residents, there seems to be apprehension in the state as to how the soldiers would conduct themselves.

Babagana Alkali, an accountant with Borno State Government told PREMIUM TIMES that his fear is the soldiers' conduct.

"The State of Emergency is a welcomed development, but our problem here in Nigeria is soldiers don't adhere to the rules of engagement. If soldiers can discharge their duties professionally to ensure that peace is restored in Borno and Nigeria at large, no one would complain.

"But the problem is when soldiers are attacked and one of them got killed, they start harassing innocent people, maiming and killing them, while the culprits go free," he said.

Also, some schools in Maiduguri have remained close since Wednesday.

"We are keeping the children at home to study the state of emergency situation. We can't guarantee their safety until we study the way soldiers conduct themselves, then we can open by next week Monday," a proprietor of one of the schools in the Borno capital said.

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