By Abubakar Alkali, PhD

Nigeria’s ministry of communications needs to issue a directive to the mobile network service providers MTN, GLO and other service providers to shut down network services in the forests used by kidnappers/bandits to perpetrate their kidnapping activity. Most of the school children kidnapped were reported to have been kept in these forests which are currently under the control of armed Fulani bandits/kidnappers.
These forests include:

  1. RUGU FOREST: Stretches from Niger Republic into Zamfara and Katsina states (Zurmi, Birnin Magaji and Tsafe local government areas in Zamfara state.
    Jibia, Safana, Batsari, Danmusa, Sabuwa, Dandume, Faskari local government areas in Katsina state.
  2. KUYAMBANA AND KAMUKU FORESTS: The deadly forest around Birnin Gwari general area straddles across 4 states: Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger.
  3. TUBALI AND MAKKAI FORESTS in Zamfara State (Shinkafi local government area)
  4. SUGUGU FOREST: Zamfara state (Anka, Bakura, Kaura Namoda, Maradun, Maru & Shinkafi local government areas).
  5. Some forests/hideouts in Abuja particularly in Kuje, Kwali, Lugbe, Gwagwalada etc.
  6. KAYINFU FOREST: Situated between Umasha in Toto Local Government Area in Nassarawa and Kogi State.

The ministry of communications should work with the military, police and other security agencies to identify other forests, hideouts and flashpoints used by kidnappers and shut down mobile network access in those areas. It is a travesty that some of these forests where kidnappers hide to perpetrate evil, have better mobile network coverage than major cities and towns.

To tackle the rampant and growing cases of kidnapping and banditry in Nigeria, the kidnapper must be denied the use of mobile phone to negotiate ransom payment.
It is clear that more than 90% of abducted victims are taken to the forests from where calls are made using MOBILE PHONES to negotiate ransom payment. Most if not all these forests are known to the authorities and the general public, so the right thing to do is to shut down mobile network service such that the criminals cannot make any calls to negotiate ransom payment.

These bandits are into kidnapping for ransom: simply to collect free money from the victim’s family or loved ones through a simple call using a mobile phone and they are not tracked. To this extent, there is the need to digitally demobilise these criminal kidnappers by making sure that they cannot use mobile phones to nengotiate for ransom payment. Without a mobile network service in the forests, there is no means for the criminals to make a call for ransom. Clearly, after the gun, the next most deadly weapon of the kidnapper is the mobile phone.

All phone lines belong to the federal government of Nigeria and the service providers are only using these phone lines on LEASE.
In this regard, the Buhari administration cannot continue to watch as mobile phones are used by kidnappers to perpetrate criminality.

The loss of revenue by the MTN and other service providers cannot be an excuse in this case as the issue involves human lives.
Most of these mobile network service providers operating in Nigeria are foreign companies who shouldn’t be allowed by the federal government of Nigeria to offer services to these criminal kidnappers-knowingly or unknowingly- in the name of profit-making.