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On the Nigerian Public Security Communications System Project
Contrary to popular belief that the Public Security Communications System was simply meant to provide CCTV cameras in Abuja and Lagos, it is a major project that has delivered modern security and e-policing infrastructure in the country. Vincent Obia reports
Running out of patience with the government over its inability to prevent terror attacks on some public places in the country’s capital, the Nigerian masses have taken to questioning various investments that have been made to provide public security infrastructure. The recent debate has been over the project to provide security surveillance in Lagos and Abuja. It has raged since after the April 14 terrorist bomb attack at a motor park at Nyanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory, that killed more than 70 persons and injured hundreds of others. And the debate has intensified following the May Day bomb that ripped through the same neighbourhood of Abuja, killing at least 12 persons and injuring over 30 others.
Arguments about the security surveillance issue have seemed to become almost hysterical in many occasions, centering mainly on emotion rather than fact.
But contrary to what many people appear to think about the project, the National Public Security Communications System (PSCS) is a $470 million project initiated by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua government. It was funded through a finance agreement between the Nigerian government and the China Export Bank, and implemented by telecom equipment giant, ZTE.
The project was meant to provide 696 Global Open Truncking Architecture (GOTA) sites; 2, 000 digital solar powered cameras – 1,000 each for Lagos and Abuja; 37 switch rooms; MW Backbone; 37 coalition emergence response subsystem; 38 video conference subsystem; 37 e-police systems; six emergency communications vehicles; and 1,500,000 lines.
The project comprises five key components.
The first is the GOTA subsystem, which involves the deployment of 696 base transceiver stations (BTS) nationwide. The network supports the deployment of 1,500,000 subscriber lines.
The second component of the PSCS is the Video Surveillance Subsystem (VSS), which is, perhaps, the most visible aspect of the project, involving the installation of 1, 000 cameras each in Abuja and Lagos. Video images captured by the cameras can be stored for more than one month, and also transferred to the system’s database for archiving.
The third component is the Coalition Emergency Response (CERS) subsystem, which supports the police call centre for emergency information. The subsystem allows emergency response in emergency situations by emergency services and provides a national platform for emergency calls by citizens to the Nigeria Police nationwide. Under this subsystem, mobile emergency communication vehicles (EVCs) may be deployed in emergency situations when commercial communications networks are incapacitated.
The fourth component is the vital e-policing subsystem, which facilitates the deployment of e-policing databases.
The fifth aspect of the PSCS is the video conferencing subsystem that enables video conferencing by all commands of the Nigeria Police with the Force Headquarters and among themselves.
The video surveillance system works according to a technical operation process. The camera is solar-powered and visible. It is a round-the-clock image capturing device. The images captured are kept locally and also sent to the monitoring centre.
The 696 base stations are diesel-powered. They receive the data from the cameras and transmit same to the switch centre/command and control.
The switch centre is where received images are stored and actions are taken.
The operational procedure of the video surveillance system involves both technology and human inputs. At the switch centre, trained officers analyse feeds from the cameras. Where the need arises, the officers can through the remote control applications of the cameras zoom for picture clarity or for images from different angles. The officers, depending on their assessment of situations, can recommend action, for instance, the deployment of troops or emergency services to particular scenes.
According to information from ZTE, the PSCS project has been completed and handed over to the Nigeria government since 2012, with ZTE assisting to fuel the base stations for additional six months.
The execution of the project was supervised by key ministries and agencies, such as Ministry of Police Affairs, Nigeria Police, Nigcomsat, Ministry of Finance, office of the National Security Adviser, which all certified that the project was implemented in accordance with specifications and contract terms.
A certificate of completion was issued to ZTE in December 2012.
It is the responsibility of the government to operate the facilities, including fuelling the base stations, safeguarding the cameras, and maintaining a corps of trained officers to man the switch centres and base stations throughout the country.
What is not clear is whether budgetary allocations are made for the running of the PSCS project. The seeming silence of the key government agencies involved in the project, particularly Nigcomsat, the supervising agency in the rental of PSCS facilities, including the sharing of allocated spectrum, is also a cause for concern.
Many are wondering if this is the case of a government not willing to implement a project by its predecessor.
The issue of the PSCS has elicited several questions.
There have been reports about damages to some of the video surveillance cameras, but can such minor and isolated damages incapacitate the entire project? Where are the officers trained to man the project? What suddenly went wrong after the CCTV cameras had been praised by the Inspector General of Police and the vice president for helping to curb crime, and after the footages from the cameras were said to have helped to solve a raid at the Lagos airport, theft in Abuja, and an attempted bombing of the police headquarters?
Vice President Namadi Sambo had on June 15, 2012 praised the Nigeria Police for acquiring the PSCS as part of efforts to enhance security of lives and property in the country.
“I must say that I’m highly impressed. This is one of the security support that is necessary and I’m pleased that Mr. President has granted approval for the Nigeria Police to acquire this sophisticated and necessary security surveillance system,” Sambo had said, adding, “I can see the whole of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Abuja Airport, Lagos, Abuja and so many things. I must congratulate you Inspector General of Police and the Minister of Police (Affairs) and I assure you that we will continue to support the police to do everything that will meet our noble objectives of providing safety for both lives and properties of Nigerians.”
In the same vein, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, said on September 18 last year, during an official visit by the chairman of the National Peoples Congress of the Peoples Republic of China, Mr. Zhang Dejiang, to the main switch centre of the PSCS, “There is no doubt about the importance of this project to the protection of lives and property.
“We are delighted about the progress of this project, we are committed to the project and this is the first step, as we will continue to improve on our infrastructure.”
The chairman of ZTE Corporation, Mr. Hou Weigui, disclosed at the occasion that the company had maintained a presence in Nigeria for 10 years. Weigui said, “We continuously keep focus on service delivery, customer care, creativeness and brand building.
“NPSCS project has not only been supported tremendously by the Chinese government, but also been given a great corporation from the Nigerian government. The project has assisted in reducing crime rate, enhanced police operation of protecting lives and property.”
He explained that the GOTA technology, developed and deployed by ZTE, was a global leader in professional trunking standards accepted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and currently in use in over 40 countries. Managing director of ZTE Nigeria Limited, Mr. Hao Fuqiang, explained how the CCTV cameras under the PSCS project had assisted in resolving several criminal and terrorism cases, including the foiling a suicide bomb attack on the police headquarters in Abuja.
Others in the delegation included Dejiang’s wife, Xin Shusen; Chinese Ambassador Nigeria, Deng Boqing; and chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Igwe Paulinus Nwagu.
Some say the federal government may require a probe to try to unravel the mystery behind the PSCS project.
Expecting Too Much
But experts believe the 1, 000 each CCTV cameras installed in Lagos and Abuja may not be sufficient to adequately monitor activities in the cities. For instance, London, with the population of about 8.3 million (according to the 2012 estimate), density of 5, 285/km2, and an area of 1, 580/km2, has about 500, 000 surveillance cameras. One thousand cameras for Abuja, with a population of 979, 876 (2012 estimate), density of 1, 400/km2, and area of 713/km2, seems inadequate. Such is also certainly insufficient for Lagos with an estimated population of 21 million, density of 20, 008/km2, and area of 999.6/km2.
Many feel a federal government inquest may be necessary to clarify the seemingly mysterious question of the PSCS project.