In what seems to be a sad time for democracy in Nigeria, several eyewitness accounts reported the shooting of unarmed and peaceful #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate area of Lagos yesterday, October 20. As people tried to broadcast live, there were reports of network disruptions in the area.
While some people said they witnessed poorer network speeds, the true extent of this disruption could not be verified as other users staying in and around Lekki stated that network speeds remained superb across different networks.
However, at 11:53 pm, October 20, 2020, Nigeria’s largest telecom provider, MTN Nigeria acknowledged that there was indeed a service outage, confirming it was still trying to resolve the issue.
“We are truly sorry for any difficulty you may have connecting to the network in parts of Lekki, Oniru, and Victoria Island at this time. This is due to the loss of auxiliary power supply at a hub site in the area,” the now deleted tweet read.
Although MTN claimed that their engineers were working on resolving the issue, it also pointed out that they were constrained at the time.
Since then, there has been no further update, and MTN has suspiciously deleted the tweet.
According to a telecom field service engineer, when a hub site is affected, it has the potential to disrupt service for that service provider and even others across different locations.
Why this matters
Prior to the reported shootings, there were eyewitness accounts of CCTV cameras at the Lekki Tollgate being disconnected, and by sundown, the streets lights were turned off.
The CCTV at the Lekki toll gate are being disconnected. I can’t even imagine what’s about to go down there. Guys, please leave that place! We live to fight another day. #EndSARS #EndBadGoveranceInNigeria pic.twitter.com/oBuGQ7nDNA— Matt (@martinsobekpa) October 20, 2020
In the heat of the reported shooting of protesters, many used their phones to record horrid proceedings as they happened. Popular Nigerian celebrity, DJ Switch made use of an Instagram live session to broadcast the fate of peaceful protesters.
Dj switch said she was using mtn on her live and mtn proceeded to slow their network. We fucking see you!!! You’ve picked your side and we won’t forget— Your fine best friend (@chokomilo_) October 20, 2020
As at 9:47 pm, there were already reports of network disruptions with MTN and Airtel around the areas earlier mentioned. Interestingly, people in other parts of Lagos also complained of the poor network while others did not.
MTN’s acknowledgement and subsequent tweet takedown glaringly point to that sad reality.
Last week, we revealed that an Internet shutdown is well within the realms of possibility, even though there are ways to bypass it. However, if cell sites are turned off, then it becomes much more difficult to form any sort of bypass or override.
Sadly, Internet services were not the only services disrupted. Healthcare operatives were also unavailable, and several eyewitness accounts also revealed that private ambulances were denied access to treat injured protesters.
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