Roughly two years after the 7th House of Representatives’ Committees on Information and Communication Technology (ICT); Public Safety and National Security, probed the ‘failure’ of the National Public Security Communication System’s (NPSCS) $470m Abuja/Lagos Closed Circuit Television (CCT) project without making public the outcome of their findings, the Reps (under the 8th National Assembly) have again raised an ad hoc committee to revisit the matter, according to recent reports. Surprisingly, contrary to the widely held public impression that the Chinese company that handled the contract – ZTE Corporation of China – did not deliver, the real reason the project got bungled was Federal Government’s failure to provide N11b as operational funds to run the CCTV project.
The contract was awarded in 2010 by the government of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua; at a time when the country was under the siege of Boko Haram insurgents and the menace of other violent criminals, especially kidnappers. The contractor, ZTE, was to finish the five main components of the project, namely: a Global Open Trunking Architecture (GOTA); Video Surveillance Subsystem (VSS) with a component of 1,000 cameras; Coalition Emergency Response System (CERS) to support the Police Call Centre for emergency callers; E-policing Subsystem to facilitate the deployment of E-policing databases; and a Video Conferencing Subsystem to facilitate video conferencing across all police commands nationwide with the Force Headquarters, Abuja; and among all police commands.
To be installed by ZTE were 2,000 digital solar powered cameras (1,000 each in Abuja and Lagos); 37 switch rooms; microwave backbone; 37 coalition emergency response systems; 38 video conferencing subsystems; 37 e-police systems, six emergency communication vehicles; and 1.5 million phone lines for subscribers to generate revenue, among others. Late last month, however, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat), Mr. Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai, told the Rep Ahmed Yerima-led ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives now revisiting the matter that the project was duly completed by ZTE; and was properly verified and certified as far back as 2012; but that FG’s failure to provide operational funds to run it made the $470m facility worthless. Ahmed-Rufai’s words: “About N11bn was required as operational funding. I learnt it was later reviewed to about N5bn after I left office, but the funding still did not come.
The situation with the project is like buying a new car and refusing to provide money to buy fuel. How will the car function? Nothing is wrong with the project, but a lot of people are not aware that this is the simple reason. When this project was tested and inaugurated, you could see the whole of Lagos from Abuja…”. The security system was intended to capture images round the clock for analysis by security agencies. Unfortunately, however, the security gadgets have been serving as mere ornaments since the completion of the project. Between 2010, when the project took off; and 2014, when the House of Representatives initiated its first probe, through 2015, the federal capital came under several deadly bomb attacks, which left scores of people dead, many injured and property worth billions of naira destroyed.
That the non-provision of N11b operational funds, which was later reviewed downwards to N5b, stalled the CCTV project, buttresses nothing but the resounding levity with which the FG treated the project; its non-commitment to it, despite the huge amount it committed to it; as well as the crocodile tears government was shedding about insecurity in the country between 2010 and 2014 especially. Ahmed-Rufai said he signed the $399.5m part cost of the project secured as loan from China EXIM Bank; while the Nigerian government provided the balance as counter-part funding to complete the $470m total cost of the project. At the completion of the project, however, he said the situation became so embarrassing that the contractor, ZTE Nigeria, had to provide operational funding for six months upon delivery of the project. We think Ahmed-Rufai has volunteered enough information to guide the lawmakers do a thorough job this time; and make the burden of their investigation even lighter.
The Reps’ probe should now unravel whether or not money was voted as operational fund for the project, and proceed from there. For, no responsible government could afford to lavish $470m on a security project without providing funds for its day-today maintenance. The FG must not allow the project to rot; and the $470m to go down the drain. It should ensure that the security cameras are quickly put to use.
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