The 112 Emergency Number that was established by Nigerian Communications Commission, has become a veritable platform to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Emma Okonji
The Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta had on assumption of duty in 2015, accelerated the implementation of Emergency Communication Centres (ECC) across the country as mandated by the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003.
From the inception, the centres were planned to use the NCC toll-free 122 Emergency Number to respond to emergency situations that needed emergency intervention. Today NCC has established the centres across 17 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
While NCC was busy with the establishment of ECC locations in the country to handle emergency cases and distress calls, little did the commission know that it will turn out to be a veritable technology tool to stop the spread of COVID-19, through quick and real time intervention responses to victims of the virus who needed quick attention, while using the 122 Emergency toll-free line. Today state governments are taking advantage of the ECC in their states to distribute COVID-19 palliatives and to respond quickly to those affected by the virus that has infected over 1.8 million people and killed over 116,000 people globally, including Nigeria.
All over the world, governments have been rolling out ideas and solutions that will help manage the spread of the virus and the state governments across the 17 locations where ECCs have been established, are taken full advantage of the centres to provide quick responses to Coronavirus victims, through the use of the 122 Emergency Number.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, recently told the 36 state governors under the aegis of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), that the ministry would continue to support state governments to help them identify vulnerable persons for proper distribution of COViD-19 items through a data mining study coordinated by the NCC), with the support of telecommunications providers in the country.
The Chairman of Nigeria Governor’s Forum, and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, had said the governors were taking necessary measures to strengthen operations in their ECCs to improve the communication response between distressed citizens and Emergency Response Agencies (ERAs) including the state emergency agency, ambulances, Police, fire service and the Federal Road Safety Corps(FRSC).
112 Emergency Number as succour
The NCC recently said the National Emergency Number would continue to provide succour to Nigerians in the nation’s collective efforts to fight the spread of the pandemic.
According to the Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, “Already, states and federal government agencies are leveraging the 112 National Emergency Number, whose calls are handled through the Emergency Communication Centre (ECC) established by the Commission across the country.
“The ECC project is the brainchild of NCC to enable easy communication by Nigerians with emergency first responders such as Police, Fire Service, FRSC, National Orientation Agency (NOA), among others by dialing the three-digit toll-free number 112.”
According to Nkemadu, the NCC fast-tracked the execution of the emergency project, whose implementation had hitherto been dragging, in recognition of its mandates to promote and enhance public safety through the use of a particular number, which shall be designed as the universal safety and emergency assistance number for telephone services generally.
He said so far, the ECCs with their operational 112 toll-free emergency number, have been implemented in 17 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Aside FCT, beneficiary states of the ECC include: Benue, Kwara, Plateau, Kaduna , Kano, Katsina, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Imo, Enugu, Anambra and Adamawa.
President Muhammadu Buhari, had on March 19, 2020, unveiled the Abuja ECC facility and flagged off the 112 National Emergency Number in Abuja.
The president had explained that the 112 Number would demonstrate his administration’s resolve to keep Nigerians safe.
The lockdown and stay-at-home order of the governments across the country have led to a situation where Nigerians have become increasingly dependent on telecommunication networks to rescue the situation created by the spread of COVID-19. With telecoms access, Nigerians are able to keep in touch with relatives, friends and business associates to make up for the social distancing measures, which all have been directed to maintain, amid other measures at curbing the spread of the pandemic.
Leveraging the 112 Number by Nigerians will help to complement other efforts put in place by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) with respect to reporting cases of the pandemic and other emergencies that may arise at this time of lockdown which could be in terms of robbery, road accident, fire outbreaks of areas and markets places that are now desolate due to shutdown of commercial activities
The NCC ACT 2003 expressly mandated the commission to take immediate steps upon the commencement of the Act to promote and enhance public safety through the use of a particular number, which shall be designed as the universal safety and emergency assistance number for telephone services generally; and encourage and facilitate the prompt deployment throughout Nigeria of seamless, ubiquitous and reliable end-to-end infrastructure for emergency communications needs.
Findings showed that each of the ECCs is equipped with among other things like 11 workstations, a server system that receives and processes 112-calls from members of the public and then dispatches the calls to the appropriate agency that has responsibility to attend to the specific emergency; and power supply mix consisting of public power supply from the national grid, two units of 100KVA generators, among others.
The facilities also include two units of 20KVA UPS powered by 160 units of 100AH inverter batteries and another 10KVA UPS powered by 16 units of 100AH inverter batteries; and the facility is also equipped with six dispatch workstations for the response agencies.
To ensure that all ECCs are effectively managed in handling COVID-19 related calls at this time of the pandemic, Danbatta, penultimate week, paid unscheduled visits to the ECC locations in Kano and Kaduna.
During the visits to the two centres, Danbatta had interactions with the personnel on ground, as he asked them various questions relating to the in-coming call traffic volume and how the calls were effectively dispatched to various emergency response agencies (ERA) connected to the centres for prompt response, especially the NCDC.
The EVC urged the personnel on duty at the two ECC locations to see their work more as a national assignment, which involves saving the lives of fellow Nigerians who may be in any emergency.