“Shutdowns exert significant chilling effects, with direct implications on participatory democracy, whose existence depends upon an active and informed citizenry capable of engaging with a range of ideas”
The order by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to the telecom operators to suspend all communications networks in Zamfara and Katsina States to fight banditry and terrorism is a form of collective punishment of Nigerians resident in the states, a group has said.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) which made the assertion, also described it as unjustified suspension of internet and telecommunication networks in the states.
SERAP has, therefore, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse it without further delay.
Persecondnews recalls that last week the NCC had ordered telecom operators to suspend all telecommunications networks in Zamfara and at least 13 local government areas of Katsina as part of strategies by the security forces to checkmate banditry and terrorism.
In an open letter signed by its Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said the suspension was without any legal justification and inconsistent with the principles of necessity and proportionality.
“Large-scale shutdowns of communication networks are a form of collective punishment. Shutdowns exert significant chilling effects, with direct implications on participatory democracy, whose existence depends upon an active and informed citizenry capable of engaging with a range of ideas.
“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 suspension of internet and telecommunication networks in Zamfara and Katsina states fails 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.
“The suspension of internet and telecommunication networks in Zamfara and Katsina states is particularly egregious, and suggests a disturbing trend, especially given the growing restriction of civic space in Nigeria,” the organization said in a statement given to Persecondnews on Sunday.
“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, SERAP insisted that “any such responsibility ought to be discharged in conformity with constitutional and international human rights standards.”