Nigeria government sued for shutting phone services

A rights group in Nigeria has asked the court for “an order of perpetual injunction” to restrain the government from unlawfully shutting down telecommunication networks in any part of the country.

The injunction wants President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Pantami stopped from suspending communication services.

The move by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to move to court comes three months after the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) ordered operators to suspend all telecommunications networks in some states in the north-western region.

This was after the military began an offensive against bandits blamed for rampant cases of kidnapping and killings in the region. The NCC has been joined in the suit as a defendant.

Bandits operating mainly in parts of north-western Nigeria were reportedly using phones for co-ordinating themselves and getting information about troop movements from informants in the communities.

In October, the Sokoto state asked the government to restore telecommunication services in 14 local government areas of the region “in view of concerns expressed by security outfits in the state that the outage was affecting the smooth conduct of their work”.

Security agents are battling to contain a wave of kidnappings that started in December 2020 and has led to the abduction of thousands of people, mainly students.

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