Telecoms blackout in Northwest will continue: General Irabor

General Lucky Irabor

Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff. General Lucky Irabor

The telecoms blackout in large swathes of Nigeria’s northwest will be maintained, because it is helping the armed forces crack down on bandits responsible for a wave of abductions and attacks.

The Chief of Defence staff, General Lucky Irabor said this in Abuja on Thursday.

All telephone and internet services were shut down in the whole of Zamfara State in early September, and the blackout was later extended to parts of Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna states as military operations against the bandits intensified.

The closure has made it hard to know what is happening in the affected areas, and has disrupted daily life and business for millions of people.

“Telecommunication in the northwest was shut down out of necessity. We have achieved successes within this period,” Irabor said.

“So the shutdown will remain as long as it’s necessary. The shutdown is more of a blessing than anything else,” he told reporters.

Bandit gangs who camp in remote forests and travel by motorbike have kidnapped more than 1,100 children from their schools and have also targeted villagers and people travelling by road.

In most cases they have demanded ransoms, and many have been paid although the details are rarely made public.

Irabor said the armed forces had killed 250 bandits in the northwest since the blackouts began.

He also said more than 600 insurgents had been arrested during the period, without elaborating.

It was not clear whether he was referring to bandits or to Islamist insurgents, who are mostly concentrated in the northeast rather than the northwest.

Meanwhile the acting director of defence media operations, Brigadier General Bernard Onyeuko has given an update on the Operation Hadarin Daji being executed in the North west in the last two weeks.

“The troops of Operation HADARIN DAJI within this period in focus, dominated the operations theatre with aggressive fighting patrols and other kinetic operations with the support of intensive air operations executed by the Air Component.

Some of these operations resulted in the rescue of kidnapped civilians, neutralization of armed bandits, recovery of arms and ammunition as well as arrest of some criminal elements within the period.

“Significantly, some of these successes were recorded at Jibia – Katsina Road, where some civilians were rescued. Also, at Daba and Kurya villages in Kaura Namoda LGA of Zamfara State as well as Nwala village in Bukkuyum LGA of Katsina State, where troops neutralized some armed bandits and recovered several assorted arms and ammunition.

Relatedly, troops arrested some notorious armed bandits’ collaborators who have been on the watch list of security agencies namely; Mamuda Aliyu Dangulbi, Rilwan Sani Dangulbi, Yusuf Adamu Dangulbi and Yakubu Umar Maihuja at Dangulbi village in Maru LGA of Zamfara State.

“These arrested criminals and items recovered have been handed over to appropriate prosecuting agencies for necessary action. In the course of these operations, troops rescued a total of 4 kidnapped civilians, neutralized 5 armed bandits, arrested 4 bandits’ collaborators and recovered 7 AK-47 rifles and 275 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition among other items and motorcycles.

“Further, the Air Component of Operation HADARIN DAJI has sustained its offensive air operations against banditry and other criminal elements in the North West Zone.

“Within the period in focus, using a force package of NAF platforms, multiple air strikes were executed on bandits’ enclaves in successive passes in different locations, one of which was at the Kwaga forest within Birni Gwari general area in Kaduna State.

“In the course of the operation, no fewer than 40 armed bandits were neutralized and several structures which served as their logistics bases were destroyed.

“In the same vein, several armed bandits were neutralized and their hideouts destroyed during air interdiction missions executed at some other locations.

“These include; Meshema, Yanfako, Gebe and Gatawa forests in Isaa and Sabon Birni LGAs of Sokoto State as well as Ranch 10 in the Rugu forest area at the border of Kankara.

“The success of the air interdictions was confirmed by battle damage assessment carried out on these locations”.

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