There are concerns over the shutdown of MTN by the Kogi State government just as the crucial 2019 presidential poll approaches.
The state government has shut down the telecommunication company’s facilities over allegations of tax evasion by the Internal Revenue Service (KIRS).
KGIRS officials were said to have broken into two hub sites in Lokoja on Wednesday morning to shut down the power generating sets and seal the sites. At least 107 sites in Kogi, Edo and the Federal Capital Territory have been affected by that action.
MTN has denied that the shutdown was justifiable, especially as it had already made a payment of N10,500,000 on Tuesday in a bid to ensure that the dispute is settled.
Over 70 sites including hub sites across parts of Kogi State have so far been affected by the shutdown and it is feared that it could lead to a total communications blackout in its environs.
Communications experts are of the opinion that the move poses a threat to the safety and well-being of consumers on the network during the forthcoming elections.
Millions of Nigerians are likely to be affected by the action by KIRS as it would restrict them from communicating with loved ones as well as keep abreast of happenings around them.
Political analyst Humphrey Anyim said the KIRS risks heating up the polity ahead of the decisive election period by its action and that in itself could have a bad impact on state Governor Yahaya Bello who has been accused of stifling opposition in the state.
“Users of the network provider could say it was a deliberate attempt by the government to alienate electorates from the information they are sure to crave during the election period,” Anyim said.
“A lot is at stake, even security agencies are bound to be affected by the shutdown, as many of them would be operating on the service provider. The last thing the government wants is to leave room for unnecessary agitation.”
Another communications and business expert, Remi Akinyemi said the shutdown will affect other socio-economic issues involving average citizens – like banking, e-commerce and general businesses.
“Bank transactions would also become extremely difficult for the numerous customers who are registered with MTN. The move by the KIRS is not a good look,” Akinyemi said.
“A lot of people want to ensure they round up business transactions before the election weeks arrive. Ultimately, innocent citizens would be on the receiving of this action which could be resolved in a less aggressive manner,” he added.