President of NUPTE, Sunday Alhassan
By Chineme Okafor
There are indications that the Nigeria Public Security Communications System (NPSCS) project which has within its schedule, installed Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja may have courted new controversies.
THISDAY gathered at the weekend in Abuja that an end to the project which was initiated by the Federal Government in the wake of severe security challenges occasioned by the activities of Islamic extremist, Boko Haram, may after all not be in sight.
Investigation revealed that the latest setback on the project may not be unconnected with the recent decision of the Chinese firm handling the project, ZTE Nigeria Ltd to retrench a good number of its Nigerian staff on unconfirmed grounds.
Accordingly, the project which initial completion date was July 2011, in accordance with the contractual terms agreed with the government has now dragged on with no confirmed timeframe for its completion.
It is funded with a $470 million credit facility obtained from the China Exim Bank on a three per cent interest repayable within the first 10 years after an initial 10 years of grace have elapsed.
Part of the contractual terms for the project include the provision of wireless voice service for the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to aid in its intelligence work against terrorism; this is however yet to materialise thus questioning the competence of ZTE.
Sources close to the project explained that ZTE had got the public safety project with an expectation that it would deliver but few months down the line, the company appeared to lack the commitment in executing and delivering the project to the Nigerian Government.
The sources also hinted that ZTE was beginning to complicate issues in the project execution with its recent sacking exercise of Nigerians within its employ.
The company, THISDAY learnt had allegedly sacked 13 of its staff in its Abuja office while another 30 were sacked in its Lagos office.
It was also claimed to have retrenched more than 50 per cent of its Nigerian workers last year.
A sacked staff who preferred to remain anonymous told THISDAY that the management of the company had told them that they were being laid off on the ground of “redundancy.”
There was however, no official response on these allegations from ZTE as efforts to get across to any of its officers in its Maitama Abuja office was not successful.
The sacked Nigerian staff also hinted that they were not paid their severance benefits, saying: “They said they would pay us off by the end of February. So we will know by February ending if they will actually deliver on their promise, otherwise, we will initiate actions against them.”
The National Union of Postal and Telecommunications Employees (NUPTE) had in October 2012 sealed the Lagos and Abuja offices of ZTE on allegation of ill-treatment of its Nigerian workers.
The 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.
Also, the sources disclosed that ZTE recent retrenchment of its Nigerian workers may not be unconnected with their agitation for better service conditions, adding that the sacked workers may never get their severance pay without adequate intervention.
Recall that the House of Representative Committee on Public Procurement, Aid, Loan and Debts Management and Information Technology had in December 2011, launched an investigation into the $470 million CCTV project following a plethora of allegations against ZTE’s 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 are still unknown.