Sunday, April 20, 2014

N76bn Abuja CCTV destroyed, stolen

Two years after the completion of a $470m   ( National Public Security Communications    System Project in Abuja, most of the installed 1,000 cameras for the Closed-Circuit Television in the city have either been vandalised or stolen, investigation by Saturday PUNCH has revealed.
Checks showed that the solar panels and batteries of the CCTV had been stolen while some cameras that were installed along the expressways and major roads in the city  had been crushed by vehicles involved in accidents.The contract for the NPSCS  project was awarded by the Federal Government to provide a   secure and independent multimedia communications system for the police and other security agencies in the country.The  project was aimed at providing voice, video and data using the Code Division Multiple Access technology to enable security agencies to combat terrorism and other violent crimes in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and other cities across the nation.The project consisted of five main components including Global Open Trunking Architecture subsystem which would operate through two Main Switch Centres with one each in Abuja and Lagos as well as 12 Base Station Controllers and 675 Base Transmitting Station sites that would  provide the Internet Protocol for the various applications to which the project could be applied.The GOTA was   also expected to support the deployment of 1,500,000 subscriber lines. The system also comprised the e-policing sub-system, which was expected to facilitate the deployment of e-policing databases; Video Conferencing subsystem which would provide for video conferencing by all the commands of the Nigeria Police Force with the Force Headquarters and among themselves; and a Coalition Emergency Response subsystem which would empower emergency response and provide a national platform for emergency calls by citizens to the Nigeria Police nationwide.  Under this subsystem, six mobile emergency communication vehicles were deployed.The project, which was handled by a Chinese firm, ZTE Corporation, at a cost of $470m, was  completed in 2012.The Managing Director of ZTE Nigeria, Mr. Hao Fuqiang, had said in an interview  that every aspect of the project had been tested,  completed and handed over to the government.“Every component of the project has been completed, tested and handed over to the Nigerian government. They are all working in perfect condition. Yes, we had challenges at the beginning of the project, but they were all addressed and I am proud to say that ZTE has helped to build modern architecture for public security in Nigeria,” he had stated.The Vice-President,  Namadi Sambo, while inspecting some of the PSCS facilities at the Police Force Headquarters in Abuja, had also expressed satisfaction and happiness with the way the new security platform was being operated, and assured Nigerians that it would check criminal activities in the country.“I must say that I am highly impressed. This is one of the security supports that are necessary and I am pleased that Mr. President has given approval for the Nigeria Police to acquire the sophisticated and necessary security surveillance system. I can see the whole of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Abuja Airport and so many things, through the equipment,” the Vice-President had said.But   investigations by Saturday PUNCH showed that the security agencies had been unable to deploy the system in checking terrorism, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country.Checks showed  that the Video Surveillance Cameras Monitor  and the Video Conference Terminal at the Force headquarters, Abuja Main Switch Centre, had been largely dormant due to lack of video feed  from installed cameras, most of which are not functional.Further findings showed that many of the installed 1,000 Close Circuit Television (cameras) apart from covering   limited areas of the city had never worked while most of them had been vandalised and their parts stolen.It was learnt that the installed cameras covered only areas inhabited by influential Nigerians and districts where important facilities and institutions were located like the Central Business District, Asokoro, Maitama and major roads and junctions in the city.It was further learnt that the CCTVs were not installed in satellite towns such as Kuje, Kubwa, Nyanya, Karu and other areas where average people and low income earners live.But low income areas in the Federal Capital Territory with dense population are prone to violent crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping, and  burglary.Checks indicated that such areas as Nyanya, Kubwa, Kuje, Bwari, Zuba, Jikwoyi, Karu and other satellite towns record higher crime rates than areas inhabited by the rich and the affluent like Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse, and the Central Business District which are well policed by security personnel.Saturday PUNCH learnt that the contractor used sub-standard materials for the CCTV project compared to what it installed in other countries. A security source told one of our correspondents that the contractor did not make provision for back-up infrastructure and spare parts for the cameras, solar panels and batteries, adding that many of the cameras that packed up could not be repaired due to lack of spare parts.It was gathered that the video-conference sub-system of the project could not be activated due to disagreement between the contractor and the government over the non-allocation of the 450 MHz frequency for the use of the sub-system.Sambo, had in 2013 directed the Nigerian Communications Commission to allow ZTE to utilise the high value spectrum for the NPSCS project, but it could not be confirmed if the directive had been complied with.The police could not be reached for comments as the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, did not respond to repeated calls to his phone. He also failed to respond to several text messages sent to his phone.But the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, which served as the consultant to the surveillance project, said that it played only a minimal role as the contractual relationship was between the Police Service Commission and the ZTE.Head of Corporate Affairs at NigComSat Limited, Mr. Sonny Aragba-Akpore, told one of our correspondents that NigComSat was only asked to supervise what the Chinese company was doing as a government technology firm.He said, “The Federal Government awarded the contract to the Chinese company. It was not a NigComSat project. NigComSat only served as a consultant to the project. Even then, no consultancy fee had been paid till date.“No document was signed between NigComSat and anybody and no payment was made. There was only a letter asking NigComSat to supervise the installations as government’s technology company.  The NigComSat staff that went there were never paid a dime till date.“The project belongs to the Police Service Commission and people there are the ones that can speak authoritatively on it. The information that I have is that ZTE has handed over the project to the Police Service Commission. So they are the ones that can say whether the project is working or not.”But when contacted, the Assistant Director, Media,  Police Service Commission, Ferdinand Ekpe, said he knew nothing about the project, adding that the only capital project being handled by the commission was the construction of its national headquarters.The Ministry of Police Affairs spokesman, James Odaudu, could not be reached for comments as he refused to respond to repeated calls to his phone on Thursday. Also, a text message sent to him did not elicit any reply as of the time of filing this report.However,  a retired Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav, described the project as an avenue for people to embezzle funds, noting that “this government is just making money available for people to steal.”According to him, the NPSCS,  if well managed, could assist security agencies to stem the tide of terrorism and criminality.He, however, observed that the various bomb blasts and attacks might  not have been perpetrated by the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, but by those who were profiting from the insecurity in the country.A security expert, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, noted that the shoddy manner the project was carried out showed that the government was not serious about combating terrorism and other violent crimes in the country.According to him, the NPSCS project should have put in place quality security cameras that can withstand rough handling and inclement weather, with strong back-up system and spare parts.“As far as  I am concerned, the campaign against terrorists cannot be won until we are able to nip things in the bud. Fighting terrorism is like a leaking pump; until you lock the pump, the water won’t stop, bailing the water is not the solution, but closing the pump or blocking the leaking point. Setting up a Counter-Terrorism Unit is still the best way to fight this problem to a standstill,” he stated.The Chairman, Egalitarian Mission Africa, a non- governmental organisation, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, described  the contract as a scam.He said, “The project is entirely rubbish. It is a scam of sort. Where are the CCTV cameras when I was kidnapped in Abuja the other time.  Why didn’t any of them record the incident to give the police, clue on  what actually happened?“Some of the cameras were mounted in my area in Gwarimpa and there had been three cases of car thefts which were not recorded by the cameras. There is even no electricity, no generator or solar device to power them. It’s all rubbish.”The National Coordinator, Proactive Gender Initiatives, Esther Uzoma, called on the government to rekindle a strong sense of patriotism in the security personnel, stressing that “Nigeria must be worth dying for.”According to her, the flagrant display of vulgar wealth in the midst of abject poverty must stop.

Culled from punch
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