The contract for the failed $470 million (N76 billion) National Public Security Communications System Project in Abuja, otherwise known as the CCTV Camera Project, has remained shrouded in mystery. This is added to the conspiracy of silence by the major actors to sweep it under the carpet. The result has been repeated bombings near Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital and seat of government. Expectedly, there has been public outrage against the shoddy handling of the project awarded to Chinese firm, ZTE Corporation. There are its local collaborators like the FCT administration, the Police Service Commission and the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited. The office of the Vice President is also believed to have a hand in the project.
Two years after the completion of the project in 2012, most of the installed 1,000 cameras have either been vandalised or stolen. 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 have been crushed by vehicles involved in accidents. The project was aimed at providing voice, video and data to enable security agencies to combat terrorism and other violent crimes in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and other big cities.
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 between 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.
The Managing Director of ZTE Nigeria, Mr. Hao Fuqiang, had claimed that every aspect of the project had been completed, tested and handed over to the 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 said.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 new security platform and assured Nigerians that it would check criminal activities in the country.
Checks show 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. Similarly, many of the installed 1,000 Close Circuit Television (cameras) apart from covering limited areas of the city have never worked while most of them have been vandalised and parts stolen.
Sadly, despite the assurances, the cameras failed to work on the few occasions Abuja was bombed. Worse still, nobody would claim responsibility for this system failure. The FCT Administration denied the Abuja CCTV project was its baby “by conception, execution or supervision.” However, there are strong indications that the contractor used sub-standard materials for the CCTV project compared to what it installed in other countries.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.
The House of Representatives recently asked its Joint Committee on Public Procurement, Aids, Loans/Debt Management, Information Technology and Police Affairs to “investigate the level of compliance with the award and the terms of contract and determine if the execution of the project by ZTE Corporation is in conformity with due process.” We support a proper probe of the contract. The federal government has a responsibility to tell Nigerians the true state of the contract. The project is too central to our security architecture to let some greedy persons undermine it.