‘…Security agencies sabotaged CCTV projects’
‘FG mum on concessionaire, contract details’
Eight years after the federal government terminated the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) project; Nigeria has paid over N40.05 billion interest accruable on the loan ZTE, a Chinese firm, obtained from China EXIMBank to finance the project.
ZTE was awarded the CCTV project contract under the federal government’s National Public Security Communications System in 2008 by the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to install CCTV cameras in Abuja, Lagos and throughout the 36 states of the federation and 774 local government areas.
The project which was to cost at $470 million, about N76 billion then, had five components: Global Operating Network Architecture (GOTA); the Video Surveillance Subsystem (VSS) which is the CCTV component; the Video Conferences System; E-Policing Subsystem and the Emergency Collation Response Subsystem.
In simple terms, the project was to provide audio, video and data information for use by the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.
The CCTV, which is the Video Surveillance Subsystem, was less than 15 per cent of the entire project.
It was designed to be financed with a $600 million financing portfolio, which was secured as a soft credit loan, with 3 per cent interest repayable in 10 years, after an initial 10 years of grace.
The China EXIM Bank agreed to offer the facility only in line with the policy of the Chinese government that it had to be tied to specific projects in order to allow them to repatriate a certain percentage of the sum loaned, including interest.
According to the Federal Ministry of Finance, the late Yar’Adua’s administration acted promptly by making a down payment of $70.50 milion, which was the equivalent of 15 per cent of the total contract sum as the government’s counterpart fund.
Thereafter, it signed a Sovereign Guarantee to the tune of $399.5m to enable ZTE to source the loan from the Chinese government.
Accruable interest on loan
The Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, had disclosed that the federal government has been servicing the $600 million loan obtained for the project at 3 per cent as agreed by the Chinese and Nigerian government when the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the project was signed in 2010.
The grace period ended in 2018 meaning that payment of the accruable 3 per cent interest began five years ago.
Confirming this before an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives, which investigated the failed project, the minister revealed that Nigeria has, in keeping with the tenet of the MoU, been serving the loan, even though it has since gone under.
“We are servicing the loan, but on the project, we will have to ask the FCT authority because the project was deployed in the FCT,” she said.
However, the minister was quick to add that she had no clue why it failed.
One of the financial experts interviewed, Udo Imowo, a former staff of a first generation bank in Abuja said the $600m facility at 3 per cent annually amounts to $18m meaning that since Nigeria started serving it five years ago the total amount so far paid to ZTE is $90 million and at current official rate of a dollar to N445, Nigeria has been serving the loan at the N40.05 billion.
“Yes, agreed that the dollar rates have fluctuated annually, but never below $200 per naira since 2018.
“It seems reasonable to me to base the calculation on the current rate which I assume is the rate at which any payment at the international market is done. If there is some downward variation, the differences won’t be much,” he said.
The firm sprang into action and reportedly installed a number of CCTV cameras in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt, among other cities.
In Abuja for instance, the cameras were installed in some 20 strategic locations including the Airport Road, Ahmadu Bello Way, Area 11. Olusegun Obasanjo Road, Life Camp Roundabout, Sultan Abubakar Road, PPPRA Headquarters, NIPOST Headquarters Junction, Tafa Balewa Road, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Following security breaches particularly the bombings in Abuja: the UN Building, Louis Edet House, Abuja, which the operational headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Christmas Day bomb blast of the Catholic Church, in Suleja, Wuse District bomb blast, among others all of which happened between 2011 and 2014, questions have been raised on the effectiveness of the cameras.
In the same vein, worried by the prevalence of these dastardly acts across the country, a member of the House of Representative, Saviour Udoh, (Akwa-Ibom/PDP) had raised a motion on the floor of the Assembly questioning the efficacy of the installed CCTV and the essence of spending huge amount of money on the provision of dysfunctional security apparatus.
It generated overwhelming concern across political divides. Consequently, the House directed its committees on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Public Safety and National Security to investigate the failure of the CCTV installed in Lagos and Abuja, and to submit findings within two weeks.
Findings were made and reports submitted but nothing happened.
An Abuja-based lawyer, Olugbenga Adeyemi, sought intervention from the court to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the failed contract, in 2014, all to no avail.
Again, in 2016, during the life of the 7th House of Representatives, the Internal Security and Intelligence Committee was constituted to find out why the project failed in a bid to nib in the bud the brazen acts of criminals especially in major cities.
Subsequently, a motion was raised by two members of the House for the eeactivation/installation of CCTV Cameras in Abuja, state capitals and major cities and investigation of the failure of ZTE Corporation to complete the contract of installing the cameras in Abuja and Lagos, was passed unanimously.
It was further resolved that an ad-hoc committee to again investigate the CCTV project and report back to the House within four weeks for further actions be set up
Blueprint Weekend checks indicated that the report allegedly indicted some high profile government officials in the security agencies, ministries and a prominent political appointee.
Still it came to naught
In 2018, the federal government made plans to revive the $470 million National Public Security Communication System, including the vandalised Abuja and Lagos CCTV cameras.
Several meetings were held and finally committees were geared towards resurrecting the project.
“There were meetings held and committees were set up. The most prominent was the committee under the supervision of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. What I learnt was that the project failed because it’s a complex issue.
“So much intrigue was at play. It was largely shrouded in secrecy and not a little under table dealings went with it.
“No, it had nothing to do with political intrigues of that time. What was at play was mercantile not political interests”, a former member of the 4th Senate said.
Speaking on the sideline of at a recent seminar, a security expert maintained that the project basically failed by elements in the security agencies, particularly the police, had worked assiduously to ensure the CCTV project did not come to light.
“I think it was and remains a brilliant idea that expectedly became consumed by the Nigerian factor. I can, based on credible intelligence from the dependable security sources, say that those who were to be the end users of the CCTV were largely responsible for the failure of the project. They never wanted it. Who wants to be captured doing some dirty things on the road,” the retired colonel, who runs a security outfit but didn’t want his name to be mentioned, said.
Efforts to revive put on gear
After failed attempts to resurrect the laudable project, the Office of the Vice President, took up many reports and opted to reconstitute a committee aimed at working towards streamlining strategies on the possibility of reactivating the project especially with regard to sustaining efforts to contend security challenges.
The committee fulfilled its assignment and recommended that the project be revived and that it be domiciled in the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
However, Blueprint Weekend’s attempt to extract information from the ministry was abortive as two directors claimed they knew nothing about.
In 2019 and as recent as last year, the Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammed Maigari Dingyadi, had disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved that the project be revived and added the government has entered into an agreement with NPS Technology Company to re-fix the abandoned CCTV project.
“We are moving forward like you are aware, the 470 million CCTV project that has been abandoned. Mr President has now given us the go-ahead to resuscitate the project and we have already entered into a concession agreement with NPS technologies,” he said.
FG mum on concessionaire, contract details
Last year, Dingyadi disclosed that a concessionaire had been found stating, “The Ministry took the issue of the reactivation of CCTV project to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for concession of the project based on Public Private Partnership (PPP) which was approved by the Council.
“The concessionaire was selected from among private organizations that bid for the project and the winner has started working to resuscitate the project.”
However, like the previous efforts, nothing was mentioned about the criteria for selecting the concessionaire nor was there any public notice seeking a bid for the project.
Blueprint Weekend learnt NPS Technology is an Indian firm with vast interests in the information technology businesses.
The federal government has been economical with details of the concession: cost profile, terms of agreement, what became of the previous contract with ZTE, how much of the $470m contract value has been paid, among other salient questions pertaining to both new and old contract. Dingyadi neither gave any figure nor listed initial bidders for the concession in Thursday’s ministerial briefing at the Radio House, Abuja.
Concessionaire working to deliver- Minister
At Thursday’s briefing, Dingyadi said the decision to concession the project is already some results, especially following the approval of FEC to the president to grant authorisations automatically to the National Communications Commission (NCC) to issue an operating licence to the firm (MPS) to run the security system for the interest of Nigerian.
“The CCTV camera project is a very huge and very expensive project and that is why President Muhammadu Buhari decided to make good use of the project so that we do not allow it to go down the drain and then continue to pay the loans that we have taken from China.
“It is for that reason that FEC decided to concession this project to a reputable contractor that can reactivate it for use by the police and other service providers and draw some revenue to the federal government and the police. The concessionaire is working progressively and we believe it is time this project will be put to use for Nigerians.
“The concessionaire has taken over the project and is reviving the facilities with a view to putting them to work maximally. The company MPS has been given Universal Access Service License by the National Communications Commission to commence full scale operation.
“Latest report by MPS indicates that out of the 696 operating site towers, 100 of them have been successfully rehabilitated while 10 out of the 37 data centres across Nigeria have also been rehabilitated.
“The NCC is in the final phase of issuing an operating licence to the concessionaire to embark on full commercialisation of the facilities to bring in economic fortunes to Nigeria as well as promote security of the country.
“In order to ensure the operationalisation of the vital security scheme, the Ministry of Police Affairs obtained the approval from FEC for the concession of the National Public Security Communication System which was installed in all the 36 states of the federation except Borno, which was seriously challenged at the time it was done in the others,” he said.