Archbishop Nicholas Okoh
• Anglican leader expresses concern about blackout
By Michael Olugbode
The Borno State Government Tuesday ruled out the restoration of telephone services to the state for now, saying the state is not ready for it.
The state has been under a communication blackout, following the declaration of state of emergency there along with Yobe and Adamawa States.
The military had ordered network operators to switch off their base stations in the affected states to make communication among Boko Haram members difficult in a bid to impair their planning and execution of terrorist attacks and to assist troops in dislodging them from their enclaves.
However, while telephone services have been restored to Yobe and Adamawa States, Borno State remains under blackout, a situation that Tuesday made Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, to express worry over the inability to communicate with people in the state.
Justifying the non-restoration of telephone services to the state, the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Zanna Umar Mustapha, said yesterday that it was government’s decision that the blackout should remain, adding that it would communicate to security agencies when it was sure the state was ready to be reconnected.
He added that the state was only waiting for the restoration of peace to the state before advising the military to restore mobile telephone services.
Mustapha spoke in Maiduguri, the state capital, while receiving members of the Senate Joint Committee on Defence, Police, Army and National Security, that visited him.
He explained that it was not the unilateral decision of the military not to restore telephone services to the state as the government and people of the state supported the continued blackout.
He said: “What is paramount to the government and people of the state now is the restoration of full peace to the state and not the GSM networks. It is not the unilateral decision of the military not to restore the networks but with the support of the state government.’’
Mustapha commended the committee for their concern about how to end the insurgency in the north-east, adding that they demonstrated sense of nationalism for visiting the state again to assess the security situation.
He also commended the security agents in the state for the improvement in the security situation, just as he praised the improved civil-military relations that gave birth to the youth vigilante group locally known as ‘Civilian JTF’ that had helped in the fight against terrorism, especially in Maiduguri.
Earlier the Chairman of the committee, Senator George Sekibo, had said they were in the state to assess the security situation, meet with security agencies and stakeholders with a view to review the security challenges facing them.
Commenting on the non-restoration of telephone services to the state Tuesday, Okoh said the Anglican Church was worried about inability to communicate with people in the state and had to raise a team to visit there.
The archbishop, who was accompanied to the troubled state by 14 other archbishops, said during a courtesy call on Mustapha that they were in the state on a solidarity visit to sympathise and share difficulties with the people and to pray for peace to return.
"We were disturbed when we find it very difficult to communicate with the good people of Borno State; therefore, we decided to pay this visit to enable us interact, sympathise and offer condolences to those who lost their relation during the crisis."