Telecommunication service subscribers in 47 local government areas in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and Kaduna states have been affected by the ban on telecom services in the areas by the Federal Government, findings by our correspondent have revealed.
This is as bank customers and Point of Sale operators in the affected areas groan over the lack of access to banking services as the ban continues in the four states.
The Federal Government had imposed a ban on telecom services in Zamfara and parts of Sokoto, Katsina, and Kaduna states, following the spate of insecurity in the region.
In compliance with the directive of the Nigerian Communications Commission, GSM operators on September 3, 2021, shut down their 248 base stations in Zamfara State.
The ban was later extended to 13 LGAs in Katsina, 14 LGAs in Sokoto and about seven LGAs in Kaduna. Zamfara State which has 14 LGA had telecoms services restored in the Gusau capital recently, leaving the ban in 13 LGAs. This brings the total number of LGAs affected by the ban currently to 47.
The 13 LGAs affected in Katsina are: Sabuwa, Faskari, Dandume, Batsari, Danmusa, Kankara, Jibia, Safana, Dutsin-Ma,Kurfi, Funtua, Bakori and Malumfashi.
The 14 LGAs affected in Sokoto are: Gada, Goronyo, Gudu, Gwadabawa, Illela, Isa, Kebbe, Sabon Birni, Shagari, Rabah, Tambuwal, Tangaza, Tureta and Wurno.
The seven LGAs reportedly affected in Kaduna are: Kajuru, Chikun, Igabi, Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Zaria, and Zango-Kataf
Meanwhile, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, there are 2,177,431 voice subscribers and 1,592,746 Internet data subscribers in Zamfara State as of the first quarter of 2021.
In Katsina State, there were 5,096,874 active voice subscribers and 3,811,258 Internet data subscribers as of the first quarter of 2021, according to the NBS.
In Sokoto State, there were 3,215,534 voice subscribers and 2,329,133 Internet data subscribers as of the first quarter of 2021.
In Kaduna State, there were 8,608,198 active voice subscribers and 6,632,861 Internet data subscribers as of the first quarter of 2021.
The number of telecoms subscribers in the 13 LGAs in Katsina, 14 LGAs in Sokoto, and seven LGAs in Kaduna affected by the ban could not be obtained from the NBS as there were no breakdowns of the figures on an LGA basis.
A resident of Chikun, Kaduna, Mr. Kenneth Okafor, told one of our correspondents on Thursday that he had to leave the comfort of his home at the Sabo Tasha area to Barnawa in the Kaduna South LGA to make and receive calls.
Okafor, who also operates a PoS business, noted that the suspension of telecom services had affected his daily returns as customers preferred moving to areas with networks to transact their business.
Another operator of PoS business, Mrs. Rose Ajeibi, resident of Sabo, also narrated her ugly experience.
“I was forced to close shop shortly after the announcement,” she said.
Some bank customers in Sokoto also lamented how they had to travel far to LGAs not affected by the telecoms ban to access banking services.
In Katsina State, it was observed how the shutdown had affected several businesses in the affected LGAs.
Business centers rendering Internet services, PoS operators, among others, were the worst hit.
Hajiya Aishatu Jamilu, who is a daily thrift collector and a customer of a first-generation bank in Dustin-Ma, narrated how the ban had affected her business.
She said, “My husband introduced me to the business of thrift collection from people and I have been doing it for about 25 years now. Since our network was shut down in September, I have been traveling to Katsina to transact business with my customers and bank. This is a major challenge to me.”
Ado Lawan, who is also a POS operator in Kurfi, said the ban had affected his business.
Mallam Ahmad Bishir, who operates a cyber cafe in Dutsin-ma, also narrated how he could no longer render services to his customers who were mainly students of the Isah Kaita College of Education and Federal University, Dutsin-ma.
A 200 Level Fisheries and Aquatic student of the Federal University, Dutsin-ma, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he always gave his debit card to his friend who is a commercial driver whenever he needed cash.
In Zamfara State, one of our correspondents noted that due to the ban, bank customers often visited Gusau, the state capital, to withdraw money, while several others traveled to the neighboring Sokoto, Kebbi, and katsina states to access banking services.
According to residents, some customers travel as far as Kaduna and Kano to transact certain businesses.
A PoS operator, Ridwanu Isa, who lives in the Shinkafi LGA, told our correspondent that he had been out of a job for over a month.
He said he was recently forced to relocate to Gusau town where there are telecom services to continue his business.
Also, a retired civil servant, Mohammed Maru, told media that the ban was making life difficult for the people due to lack of access to banking and other basic services.
According to him, he usually goes to Gusau or Sokoto to withdraw his meager monthly pension, lamenting that, “if the situation continues like this, nobody can tell what will happen to the state.”