Curbing Banditry with Emergency Communications Centres

The Emergency Communications Centres established by the Nigerian Communications Commission, will help the newly appointed service chiefs to address insecurity issues in the country, writes Emma Okonji

Banditry in Nigeria in the last five years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has taken a new dimension, with increased killings and kidnappings.

It was for this reason and for the purpose of rejigging the security operations of the country that Buhari, last week removed the former service chiefs and replaced them with new ones, with a fresh mandate to curb insecurity across the country.

Premised on the fact that the service chiefs need collaboration and effective communication tools to address insecurity in the country, stakeholders in the telecoms sector are of the view that the different Emergency Communications Centres established by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) across the country, could help address insecur
ity, if leveraged upon by the new service chiefs and the country’s security operatives.

When NCC commenced the establishment of ECC across state capitals, the commission was optimistic that the project would help in enhancing the security of lives and property of Nigerians, since the centres are designated platforms through which public can access help from any response agency such as the Nigeria Police (NPF), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Fire and Ambulance Services, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and all its affiliate State Emergency Management Agencies.

Addressing insecurity with ECC

President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, told THISDAY that security operatives need intelligent report on kidnappers and killers in order to deploy strategies that would get them apprehended even before they strike, and that such intelligent report could come via the ECC centres, where NCC has provided toll free numbers for people to call and pass information, and to also make distress calls and get instant help.

“These are the kind of centres we need that are driven by emerging technologies that can trace and track criminal actions in the country. The newly appointed service chiefs will find the ECC centres useful, if they leverage on it and even improve on it,” Ogunbanjo said.

A cybersecurity expert, John Udeh said keeping security tight and confidential would help security agents accomplish their task of maintain law and order in the country as well as provide safety for all citizens. He said the ECC centres would surly promote confidentiality, since anyone could dial the toll free number to provide intelligent report to security operatives, via the ECC centres.

Established ECC centres

The ECCs were activated as a one-stop shop for receiving distress calls from the public and dispatching same to appropriate Emergency Response Agencies (ERAs) for timely response and resolution of the distress.

The ECC project had been in limbo until a new management under the leadership of Prof. Umar Danbatta, embarked on the construction and operationalisation of the ECCs across states of Nigeria and the FCT in calculated bid to enhance President Buhari’s ongoing efforts at improving security situation in the country.

In all, the ECCs have been activated in 19 states of the country, including the FCT – The states are FCT, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, Plateau, Enugu, Benue, Akwa-Ibom, Cross-River, Oyo, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Adamawa, Kogi, Anambra and Imo states, which was recently established.

During the total lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ECCs played remarkable role by providing a platform for members of the public to seek lifesaving information or report COVID-19 related cases by dialling ‘112’ from any of the networks. Accounting to NCC, over 1,500 COVID-19-related cases were received and processed by the ECCs in the peak of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

NCC’s vision

Danbatta, while speaking about the importance of ECC centres said the project was essentially aimed at enhancing the security of lives and property of the people of Nigeria and other residents living in different states of the country.

According to Danbatta, Buhari launched the ECC, which activated the universal toll-free 112-number Service for Nigeria, in Abuja, through a virtual platform. This, he said, underscored the importance president places on the ECC project as a veritable platform to enhance security of lives and property of Nigerians and the general public.

He added that at a time when the country was faced with insecurity issues such as indulgency, banditry, kidnappings, armed robberies and many more life-threatening issues, such as the Coronavirus pandemic, the emergency communications centres, established by NCC across the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), had become continually useful and central to saving lives.

“The ECC has transformed lives and helped many in handling emergencies. We have activated them across states and many other states are asking us to come and activate their ECCs and serious work is ongoing in this regard, as we know that this important life-saving facility supports security architecture in the country for improving security in our nation,” Danbatta said.

The facilities

The facilities at each ECC centre include: 11 workstations, of which 10 are meant for call taking and one for the station supervisor; Server system that receives and processes 112-calls from members of the public before the calls are dispatched to the appropriate response agency that has the responsibility to attend to the specific emergency; power supply mix consisting of the national grid, two units of 100 KVA generators, two units of 20kVA UPS and a 10KVa UPS. The facility is also equipped with six dispatch workstations for the response agencies.

In using the facilities, the public do not have to memorise several 11-digit numbers from different response agencies, as has been the case before now. Danbatta said callers will simply have to dial 112 in times of distress/emergency to seek help. He reiterated that the 112 emergency number is totally toll-free, even when the caller has zero credit on the phone.

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