The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse the suspension on internet and telecommunication networks in Zamfara State, and 13 local government areas of Katsina State in the fight against banditry and terrorism.
1st News had reported that the NCC recently ordered telecom operators to suspend all telecommunications networks in Zamfara State, in at least 13 local government areas of Katsina State to check banditry and terrorism.
However, SERAP in an open letter dated 11 September 2021 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, said the move is “without any legal justification, is inconsistent with the principles of necessity and proportionality. The suspension is a form of collective punishment of Nigerians resident in these states.”
SERAP said the development is “egregious, and suggests a disturbing trend; especially given the growing restriction of civic space in Nigeria. Shutdowns should never become an entrenched practice in the country”.
“While the authorities have a legal responsibility to protect, ensure and secure the rights to life and property; any such responsibility ought to be discharged in conformity with constitutional and international human rights standards,” the agency said.
The letter, read in part that: “The suspension has the potential to affect millions of internet and telecommunication users in these states; and those on the margins of society are most impacted by it.
“The suspension of internet and telecommunication networks in Zamfara and Katsina states; fail to meet the requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality.
“The requirement of necessity also implies an assessment of the proportionality of restrictions; such as the telecoms blackout in these states, with the aim of ensuring that restrictions target a specific objective; and do not unduly intrude upon human rights.”
It added that “While ‘checking the activities of bandits/terrorists in these states could conceivably be viewed; as justification for exceptional measures necessary to protect public order or national security; the authorities have so far failed to show how shutting down internet and telecommunication networks in the entire Zamfara State; and 13 local government areas of Katsina State is necessary to achieve the stated purposes.
“We would be grateful if the suspension of internet and telecommunication networks in Zamfara and Katsina states is reversed within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then; SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest.”