The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP), has said the shutting down of telecommunication services in Zamfara and Katsina State by the Federal Government is a violation of human rights.
The Federal Government had ordered the shutting down of mobile networks in the two states over insecurity issues.
This is to help the series of offensive attack on bandits and terrorists by the Nigerian military in the northwest region.
The affected Local Government Areas affected by the development are listed as; Sabuwa, Faskari, Dandume, Batsari, Danmusa, Kankara, Jibia, Safana, Dutsin-Ma and Kurfi that are on the fringes of the Ruggu forest where most of the bandits are hiding.
The other three include Funtua, Bakori, and Malumfashi.
Reacting to the development, SERAP in a statement released on Sunday, September 12, asked President Buhari to direct Communications Minister, Isa Pantami, and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to reverse its directive.
The statement signed by Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, pointed out that the suspension is a form of collective punishment of residents of the affected states.
SERAP maintained that the disruptions of the networks is without legal justification.
Admitting the authorities have a legal responsibility to protect the rights to life and property, “such responsibility ought to be discharged in conformity with constitutional and international human rights standards.
SERAP, who gave the government an ultimatum of seven days to restore the networks, threatened it would take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest.
The rights group quoted out the 2011 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the internet, which emphasised that cutting of internet “for populations or segments of the public can never be justified, including on public order or national security grounds.”
SERAP said “Shutdowns generate a wide variety of harms to human rights, economic activity, public safety and emergency services that outweigh the purported benefits.
“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 statement added that “While checking the activities of bandits/terrorists’ could be viewed as justification, the authorities have so far failed to show how shutting down telecommunication networks is necessary to achieve the stated purposes.”
It further added that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights affirmed the principle of non-interference with access to internet and telecommunication networks.