Insecurity: Time to revisit failed $470m CCTV contract

The security threats rocking the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) would have been avoided had Nigerian elected officials prioritised the best interest of the country over self-aggrandisement.

The embarrassment that the country has had to endure from looking helpless in the face of terror and the continued stay in captivity of 55 students of the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), who were kidnapped along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway while on their way back to school, make it necessary to call for a revisit of the failed $470 million CCTV project.

This has become necessary in light of calls by officials of the Federal Capital Territory Administration that all public locations in the city must have Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras, this time to be provided by the citizens in Abuja. We dare to say that had the $470 million project worked efficiently, criminals would have not found the boldness to issue a threat that the embassies of the United States of America and the United Kingdom would take seriously.

In 2010, Nigeria under the administration of the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua secured a $600 million loan from China to finance the National Public Security Commission System (NPSCS), otherwise known as the CCTV project. The goal of the project was to improve the security architecture of the country.

Many years on, most of the mounted panels around FCT lie in ruins, while vandals have been helping themselves with the panels

ZTE Corporation, a Chinese company that executed the contract, claimed that it did install the CCTV cameras across the 36 states. However, weeks after handing over in 2012, there were widespread reports that the multi-million dollar equipment was of low quality and getting dilapidated. 2014 investigation by BusinessDay showed that the project was shabbily handled and government officials had schemed to re-award the project even after it was supposedly completed. While multiple sources said the government was aware that the execution process of the project was marred with corruption, it never raised an objection nor moved to investigate the execution of the project.

A 2016 investigation found that solar panels with batteries and other components for the CCTV camera were installed around the FCT, with no traceable monitoring locations. The equipment brought were reportedly the ones that were earlier rejected in Ghana because they were substandard. The investigation also found that ZTE was underpaid for the project, as much of the funds for it was diverted into private pockets. Many years on, most of the mounted panels around FCT lie in ruins, while vandals have been helping themselves with the panels.

The ministry departments in charge of the deployment of the CCTV cameras have essentially been playing hide and seek when asked what the state of the project is currently. In October 2019, the minister of finance disclosed that while the project was deployed in Abuja, the Federal Government was unaware of the status of the project. The government, however, continues to service the loan despite not deriving any benefit.

Read also: Nigerian Police’s laudable advice on CCTV installation in homes

Adamu Idris, spokesperson of Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) said in 2020 that while it was brought in to run the cameras on behalf of the government, the project was not successfully executed hence it can no longer account for the status of the project.

Why is the present administration not making efforts to find out why it is paying for a service that is not returning any benefit? How many lives have to be lost to the diversion of security equipment funds before the authorities wake up and take action? Why has the government failed to investigate and prosecute the culprits as recommended by the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee’s report which indicted ministers who served between 2010 and 2014 in the Ministry of Police Affairs, which handled the project during the Goodluck Jonathan administration?

According to the committee, the ministers should be prosecuted over the rationale and motive for the removal and or disappearance of the operational and maintenance costs of the project from its initial proposals, as that singular act contributed to the non-performance of the network.

The many security challenges the country is currently facing could have been long avoided were officials held accountable for every money spent on security. The brazen nature with which our commonwealth is being looted is because of the absence of fear that there will be consequences. But every action has consequences. We call on the government to revisit the failed CCTV project and henceforth ensure that it institutes a system of accountability deterrent enough for every official.

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