Abuja $470m CCTV camera project lies in ruins

Close Circuit Television Camera (CCTV), a vandalised panel

Close Circuit Television Camera (CCTV), a vandalised panel<br />

Vandals Have Field Day As NASS Prevaricates
The project was awarded to a Chinese firm, ZTE Communications for $470m, an equivalent of N76b in 2010, after then Finance Minister, Olusegun Aganga, led a delegation to Beijing, China, where the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed. On the team were the then minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Waziri, and the then Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim.

The Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera project was to be financed with a $600m financing portfolio, which was secured as a soft credit loan, with three per cent interest repayable in 10 years, after an initial 10 years of grace. For the Chinese government to agree to give out a loan, specific projects had to be tied to it in order to allow them to repatriate certain percentage of the sum loaned, including interest.  This allows jobs to be created for them while local companies suffer the consequences.

However, solar panels with batteries and other components for the CCTV camera were installed around the FCT, with no traceable monitoring locations. The equipment brought were said to be the ones that were earlier rejected in Ghana because they were substandard.
ZTE Communications was said to be at a dilemma, as the initial money for the project could no longer add up due to the China trip it sponsored, and monies that exchanged hands in form of bribe, so the available was brought for Nigeria, and they were accepted.  Six years on, the mounted panels around FCT lie in ruins, while vandals have been helping themselves with the panels.

People are getting more exposed to alternative sources of power like the solar, and in a place like Abuja, where the sun helps in no small measure for the maximum functionality of solar powered energy, those who know the worth of the equipment are carting them away in bits, and it is therefore a common sight in the FCT to see fallen poles that were used to erect the panels with the batteries and other accessories removed.  Interestingly, the vandalised panels are located in the heart of the city, areas where people in positions of authority drive through on a daily basis. 

In the characteristic manner of the National Assembly’s unending investigations, the Internal Security and Intelligence Committee of the 7th House constituted another committee to investigate the project, especially when bombing in Abuja was nearly a daily occurrence.  
The report of the committee submitted in 2012, did not see the light of the day.In the wake of the multiple bombings in Nyanyan and Kuje on Friday 2nd October 2015, the legislators again remembered the CCTV moribund project and as usual, nerves were roughened, regrets expressed and action promised to be taken and justice served, after all they can’t afford to disappoint Nigerians. But again, nothing came forth from all the grammar spoken that day of October 8, 2015.

Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, had fingered corruption at the sitting.  He said there were documents from the investigation of the 7th Assembly that suggested that there were underhand dealings. According to him, “We have documents and paragraphs with damning revelations at that time. When it relates to the security and welfare of this country, it’s our concern and we have to start asking real questions. A contract has been signed, who signed the contract, who was the person responsible for the signing? At that time they couldn’t say and they were passing bug.’’

He went further: “There are many issues in this motion that we need to take very seriously. Had these things been in place, what happened in Abuja a few days ago would have been prevented or solved. I don’t know whether or not this is an area that should be left to private companies or the Federal Government, but security is solely the responsibility of government.”

Others contributed to the debate and afterwards, they all went to sleep until January 28, 2016, when the House committee investigating the CCTV contract under the chairmanship of Ahmed Yerima, and the Chief Whip of the House, Garba Alhassan, raised issues on the investigation during a hearing, and promised that they would not go the way of the 7th Assembly. But like it was during the 7th Assembly, the 8th Assembly has also lost steam, and the initial vow to get to the root of the matter has since been watered down.

At the hearing, the former managing director of the Nigeria Communication Satellite Ltd, Ahmed Rufai, placed the blame on the Federal Government for the failure of the $470m National Public Security Communication Project.Adekoya Abdul-Majid, and Abiodun Faleke, had on October 8, 2015 moved a motion on the need to install CCTV cameras in Abuja, state capitals, major cities and other strategic areas, citing security concerns.

But if the ZTE communications’ $470m CCTV project in Abuja and Lagos are yet to be completed after six years, how would taxpayers’ money be committed to installation of such cameras in other parts of the country?  Nigeria had paid its counterpart funding of $70.5M representing 15 per cent while the Chinese EXIM Bank was to pay $399.5m representing 85 per cent, which Nigeria was required to repay on a three per cent interest rate within 10 years at prevailing exchange rate.  

Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, said the contract has given no value for the money involved and demanded that pertinent questions needed to be asked, with regards to what happened and how the funds were spent.The plenary, which was presided over by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, gave an ad hoc committee that was set up four weeks to investigate the project, and also determine the extent to which Chinese nationals paid taxes to the Federal Government coffers. Nothing has been heard of the investigation again a year after the committee was given the mandate.

An Abuja-based lawyer, Olugbenga Adeyemi had on June 2, 2014 gone to court seeking an order to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the failed contract, but the court ruled that though Adeyemi could make the prayer as a plaintiff, the court has no power to compel the EFCC to investigate. 

For Adeyemi, the judgment shouldn’t have been given in the first place, because it could send wrong signal to people that they can do anything and get away with it.He expressed uncertainty on the possibility of him appealing the judgment, with a conclusion that Nigeria may not be worth dying for.

Abuja residents are worried about all this. Some are wondering why there is so much self-centredness in the National Assembly.  They believe members are usually concerned with things that interest them and do not care about the people they claim to represent. Chukwuemeka Allure says it would take only God for things to be done the proper way in Nigeria.

According to him, “Look at when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki appeared at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, many senators followed him there as if it was the Senate that had a case, and they would leave the affairs of the country while doing that. The same thing happened when allegation was made against Speaker Dogara about budget padding. We all saw what happened. All the responses of fellow representatives were in support of him. Does that means not one of them has a diverse opinion.  Why can’t they investigate this CCTV issue, especially when Nigeria is battling insecurity?  That will tell you that some people are still untouchable in this country, and it is unfortunate. But when a poor man steals garri in the market, they jail him for 20 years.”

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