Chineme Okafor investigated the $470 million National Cyber Security Project that should help solve the problem of Boko Haram insurgence and other crimes through the installation of Closed- circuit television (CCTV) cameras in Abuja metropolis and reports that the project may have been abandoned a long time ago.
Sitting in his oval office in the capital city in May 2010 on assumption of office as Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan had a deep thought about the security challenges facing the nation he now leads. He called for experts. After series of meetings with security experts within and outside the country, he arrived at his first decision. The installation of Closed- circuit television (CCTV) cameras has been suggested as part of the first steps.
On August 27, 2010, Nigeria signed an agreement with Chinese telecommunication firm, ZTE to install about 2000 solar powered CCTV within the federal capital, Abuja and its commercial hub, Lagos. Abuja and Lagos were selected to host the pilot projects aimed at closely monitoring and uncovering possible threats to public security through the CCTV cameras.
The installations as planned were to adequately facilitate real time communication between Nigeria’s security apparatus which include the Nigeria Police, State Security Service (SSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and perhaps other statutory security establishments in the country. With this, Nigeria’s security agencies were expected to nip in the bud the menace of suicide bombing and other forms of crime in country using accurate intelligence information and deployment of necessary security apparatus to hot spots.
Accordingly, Nigeria was expected to make a down payment of 15 per cent which amounts to about $70.5 million within an agreement reached with the Chinese government while Chinese Exim Bank was expected to provide the balance of 85 per cent, which is about $399.5 million in a totaled project sum of $470 million for the CCTV project. Nigeria will also pay back the 85 per cent Chinese Exim Bank loan over time on a three per cent interest rate within 10 years.
The tripartite agreement which was subsequently sealed between the Ministries of Finance and Police Affairs as well as the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NigComSat) for the management of the cyber security apparatus saw Nigeria’s ministry of finance assuming the status of the borrower, while ministry of police affairs became the beneficiary just as NigComSat was listed as the operator of the project.
NigComSat was also expected to utilise the National Public Security Communication System (NPSCS) platform within which the CCTV project was embedded to provide quality broadband internet connectivity across Nigeria, at the same time generating Virtual Private Network (VPN) which provides security through tunneling protocols and security procedures such as encryption for both public and private institutions. VPN ensures that the sharing of highly important information over the internet remains very secured and feasible to users; it further aides in sharing of high confidential security intelligence reports that may have been gotten from private and public establishments.
According to Article 2.1 of the loan agreement which also grants NigComSat full commercial operation of excess capacity of the framework for prompt repayment of the loan, NigComSat shall inter alia: “operate dedicated account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) into which all proceeds of the commercialised portion of the project shall be paid and credited. The credited proceeds shall be utilised towards network sustainability and the repayment of the loan from China Exim Bank.”
NigComSat would also have to keep proper records of all proceeds realised from the commercial activities of the framework and will render periodic account of such to the relevant project implementation committee.
But a few years down the line, the project initiated to support government’s effort to secure the country from terrorism has neither served its purpose nor being completed owing to various encumbrances that could be summarized as an alleged lack of commitment on the part of the project contractor to establish job schedule.
The project as handled by Chinese firm, ZTE has encountered delays and controversies enough to attract the federal parliament to investigate its position, yet there seems to be no end in sight to its completion. THISDAY investigations show that the project seemed to have remained in limbo, contributing nothing to Nigeria’s overall security efforts.
From dysfunctional systems and components to broken units occasioned by explosion from installed batteries of the CCTV cameras at an intercession between the Kashim Ibrahim Way and Aminu Kano Crescent in Wuse 2, as well as incomplete units at various parts of Abuja, the CCTV project appears to have added nothing to the arsenal available to Nigeria’s security outfit in fighting crime that has in recent time become a regular feature on the streets.
Just when there were media reports of a victim losing his sight from the explosion at Wuse 2, a national daily penultimate week reported an incident where a young undergraduate was robbed right under a CCTV camera which was later discovered to be dysfunctional by the victim as she attempted to provide the police with intelligence report of the incident. She had asked the police to trace the culprits with footages from the CCTV camera, only to be told that the cameras do not work and have remained useless for months now, although authorities in the police force claimed that the cameras have aided their work in combating crimes in Abuja and environs.
Also, an independent investigation by THISDAY shows that there are various complaints on the quality of work and material deployed for installation of CCTV in Abuja and its satellite towns. In Gwagwalada for instance, a site along the market road, opposite the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital with longitude and latitude 7.0781 and 8.94341 respectively as well as at Asokoro with longitude 7.54173 and latitude 9.02521 were found to be incomplete with no camera or faulty batteries, thus validating initial claims by experts that ZTE may have deployed substandard components to work on sites across the country. Some sites have also remained incomplete for a very long time.
Apart from these obvious setbacks in the completion of the project, THISDAY gathered that the recent decision of ZTE to retrench a good number of its Nigerian staff may further prolong the duration of the project which initial completion date was July, 2011 in accordance with the contractual terms agreed with the government.
Since there is no confirmed completion timeframe yet for the project, a part of the contractual terms for the project which include the provision of wireless voice service for the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to aid its intelligence work against terrorism will remain pending, but this once again puts a question mark on the competence of ZTE to conclude the job.
Sources close to the project also hinted that ZTE was beginning to complicate issues in the project execution with its recent mass retrenchment of Nigerians within its employ. The company, THISDAY learnt had allegedly sacked 13 of its staffs in its Abuja office while another 30 were sacked in its Lagos office last month. THISDAY gathered that ZTE began the retrenchment of its Nigerian staff last year.
That move was frowned at by the National Union of Postal and Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE) which sealed the Lagos and Abuja offices of ZTE in October 2012 on allegation of ill-treatment of its Nigerian workers. President of NUPTE, Sunday Alhassan had then stated that the protest followed several failed attempts to dialogue with the management of the company.
Alhassan also alleged that the workers were subjected to long work hours and denied payment of their entitlements.
On the other hand, the House of Representative Committee on Public Procurement, Aid, Loan and Debts Management and Information Technology in December, 2011, launched an investigation into the $470 million CCTV project following a plethora of allegations against ZTE sub-standard work ethics.
The parliament had sent a 10-man committee to China on a fact finding mission of projects previously executed by the firm in China with a view to comparing their standard of work; the one-week trip was allegedly sponsored by ZTE in April, 2012 and findings from the fact-finding mission is still unknown as the parliament was yet to make public its discovery from the fact-finding mission.
Analysts say the house committee may have been compromised to sit on the report or probably alter its findings in favour of ZTE whom they believed lacks standard work ethics. When THISDAY contacted ZTE for its official response ZTE m officials at its Maitama office in Abuja declined comments.
While ZTE’s commitment to Nigeria’s first public cyber security system is increasingly been questioned across board, Nigeria will still have to fulfill its obligations in the loan deal which it got from the China Exim Bank. It is believed that the country would definitely have to pay off the loan with interests irrespective of the outcome of the CCTV project. The Chinese government has funded several telecom projects in Nigeria by investment and subscriptions, through loans whose conditions are that supply and installation contracts are given to Chinese companies. China has also been funding projects in other African countries.
Just last year, another Chinese telecom firm, Huawei Technologies was embroiled in a controversy over a tender to lay fiber-optic cable in Uganda. The national transmission backbone and e-government infrastructure was a $106 million project, funded by a loan from China Exim Bank. The project was temporarily halted over controversy involving allegations of inflated costs and the use of incorrect cabling. Now in Abuja, there are questions, where are the CCTV cameras?