August 27, 2012
Effort by the Federal Government to monitor criminal activities in the country with Closed Circuit Television, CCTV, appears to be facing a setback, as the frequency, a vital facility required for the smooth operation of the $470 million (N75.2 billion) National Public Security Communication Systems, is shrouded in protracted controversy.
Findings by Vanguard indicate that the telecommunication frequency, which ZTE, the Chinese company handling the project, insists must be deployed for the scheme, had already been allocated to another company by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, which is now in a fix on how to resolve the riddle.
It was learnt that ZTE is insisting on the use of the controversial band based on what a source described as ‘an excellent quality transmission based on test-runs’ by the foreign contractor. Findings revealed that the firm has already installed about 2,000 CCTV cameras complete with solar-powered terminals in Abuja and Lagos in readiness for the take-off of the new security monitoring system in Nigeria but has been held down by the frequency feud.
It was gathered that about 1.5 million lines are expected to be made available for security and commercial use once the CCTV project comes on stream. Out of the number, 500,000 lines are slated for the security agencies while the remaining 1,000,000 lines would be used by the private companies. A top police ministry official described the unresolved problem over the frequency as a dilemma that could slow down the project and give room for more attacks in the country.
The officials said, “The problem is that they (ZTE) wanted the present frequency, which they are operating to be changed since it is being used by another agency. Alternatively, they want the other user to concede the frequency for national use. “But, in my view, there is nothing that should be compromised for the security of our nation. Although there is an existing user of that frequency, there is need to look at it patriotically and concede the frequency for national interest,” said the source.
Efforts to confirm the status of the controversial frequency failed as neither the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Mr. Eugene Juwah nor the Head of Media, Mr. Reuben Mouka, could be reached for comments. But a source familiar with the controversy said it was not possible to retrieve the frequency from its original owner and allocate it to the Chinese firm.
The source noted, “Frequencies are managed by the Frequency Management Council and it is that council that has the power to look into the matter but it may not work at the end of the day because of previous controversies that arose over attempts to withdraw licences already given out by the NCC.
“The commission is cautious not to be seen to be toying with allocated commercial frequencies so as not to be perceived by foreign investors of subjecting frequencies to political influences that have the capacity to drive away investors and dent the country’s image.” Asked if the former allottee could not relinquish the channel for national security, the source explained that it would not be very easy to get it done.
But it was learnt last night that the Presidency had mandated the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, whose office supervises parastatals, to urgently intervene and get a suitable frequency for the Chinese firm to use for the security project in view of the challenges the nation was passing through. It will be recalled that in the wake of rising insecurity in the country, the Federal Government on August 27, 2010 signed the multi-million naira agreement with ZTE to deploy satellite technology to address strategic security and other needs of the country following an approval given by the Yar’Adua administration in 2008.
In particular, the project is intended to provide adequate and sophisticated communication system to enable the Nigeria Police and other security agencies to effectively combat crime in the country. Under the agreement reached with the Chinese Government, Nigeria is to make a down payment of 15 per cent ($70.5 m) while Chinese Exim Bank is to provide the balance of 85 percent ($399.5 m) to be paid back as loan over time by Nigeria.
Already, a tripartite agreement has been sealed among Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Police Affairs and the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, NIGCOMSAT, for the smooth management of the CCTV scheme. Under the agreement, the Federal Ministry of Finance is designated as the borrower, the Ministry of Police Affairs is classified as beneficiary, while the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, NIGCOMSAT, is slated as operator.
But to facilitate prompt repayment, the agreement allows NIGCOMSAT to operate, manage and commercialise the excess capacity of the NPSCS project.NigComSat is expected to use the NPSCS platform to provide high-end broadband internet connectivity all over the country and engender Virtual Private Network, VPN, for both public and private institutions.
Article 2.1 of the agreement reads, “NIGCOMSAT shall operate dedicated account with the Central Bank of Nigeria 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 undertakes to keep proper records of all proceeds realised from the commercial activities and shall render periodically, accounts of such proceeds to the Joint Project Implementation Committee or any other authority the committee may designate from time to time.”