The Abuja CCTV camera project is a cause to worry as to how projects are handled in Nigeria. The project has been abandoned for years but the $470M loan borrowed from China is being serviced.
At a budget defence session on Thursday in Abuja, considering the project, the House of Representatives Committee on Finance demanded an update on the project from the Ministry of Finance.
How Did This Happen?
The project was conceived by the administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2008 during a visit to China and by August 2010, the contract was signed for the deployment of NPSCS. The project was executed by the Ministry of Police Affairs and was supposed to cut across the 36 states and FCT, while the Nigeria Communication Satellite Ltd (NIGCOMSAT) acted as consultant to the implementation.
The project was then awarded to a Chinese firm, ZTE Communications for $470m, an equivalent of N76b in 2010. The contract provided for installation of five components, including the video surveillance system and comprehensive, reliable, modern and robust public security communication technology. This meant that the project was to provide audio, video and data information for use by the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies
The then former 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 3% 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.
The next step taken was the installation of solar panels with batteries and other components for the CCTV camera around the FCT with no traceable monitoring locations. This was as a result of ZTE Communications being caught up in a dilemma as the initial money put aside for the project could no longer add up due to some of its pre-execution costs.But six years later, the mounted panels around FCT were left in ruins while vandals helped themselves to the panels.
In 2016, the Internal Security and Intelligence Committee of the 7th National Assembly constituted a committee to investigate the project especially at a point when bombings were prevalent in Abuja but nothing came out of it.
Two years after the investigation, in 2018, the federal government made plans to revive the $470 million National Public Security Communication System, including the vandalised Abuja and Lagos Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV). According to Mr. Musa Otaru, then Head of Telecommunication Service at NIGCOMSAT, the role of NIGCOMSAT was just to provide technical consultation to the implementation. He said:
“And at the end of day, we were also mandated to do a post implementation to operate the project. In the implementation, I could see that somebody, say NIGCOMSAT engineers, has certified the project, I don’t think so. We cannot say it is completed but it is substantially completed about 90-95 per cent completed across all note.The level which the project has reached now can make it operational. So we have done the project and it is at the advanced conclusion of the project.The challenges faced by the project is that of takeoff fund which is lacking, that is why the operation was stopped”
He further went on to explain that the project had been misunderstood by the public to mean CCTV because it is the easily visible component of the project. According to him, the CCTV, which is the Video Surveillance Subsystem, was less than 15 per cent of the entire project. The project had five components: the GOTA, which is Global Operating Network Architecture; the Video Surveillance Subsystem (VSS); the Video Conferences System; E-Policing Subsystem and the Emergency Collation Response Subsystem.
He said that the preliminary acceptance test for the project was conducted in December 2012. So as required by the global practice, the network was ran between January and June 2013, and that was before they had a major challenge of fund that made the network to stop. The cost of running the network was quite enormous and it was due to paucity of funds that they shut down.
According to him, even after June 2013, the network was still in part running. It was not shut down nationwide; part of it was still running, especially in Abuja and Lagos, up till the early part of 2014 before the switch was finally shut down in September 2014.
“The operation was ongoing until it was somehow gradually brought to a halt because of paucity of fund and so many challenges faced.The network has been idle for so long which has exposed it to vandalism as most of the components of the network had been seriously vandalised.”
Nine Years Later, What Has Been Done?
Nine years since the contract was awarded, nothing has been done to revive the failed Abuja CCTV camera project while Nigeria’s continuously paying back the loan borrowed to fund the project and another call for investigation has been made.
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance, James Faleke (APC-Lagos), demanded an explanation on Thursday, saying there was a need for Nigerians to get value for money paid.
“Before this administration, we collected some loans and the one that strikes me the most is the 460 million dollars for CCTV installation in Abuja. I want to know the position of this loan, I am sure we are paying back but the CCTV is not working. Any time we take loan from China, the Chinese will come and do the job, they will bring all their equipment, the personnel and the goods and yet we do not have value for the money, especially that of the CCTV. Where are we? I need you to look into it and send us a memo on this particular aspect.”
Responding to the Chairman, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said Nigeria was servicing the loan but she had no explanations on the status of the failed project.
In her own words:
“We are servicing the loan but on the project, we will have to ask the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Authority because the project was deployed in the FCT, I have no information on the status of the CCTV. The conditions of the loans that we take from China always will be that a Chinese company will provide the infrastructure services.These are loans that are of three per cent, the rail lines are being rolled out, the Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan rails are all loans from China and are being executed by Chinese companies.”
Who Is The Federal Capital Territory Authority?
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) is a Nigerian ministry that administers the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria. It is headed by a Minister appointed by the President who’s assisted by a Permanent Secretary, who is a career civil servant.
The response of the Minister of Finance indicates that no one can be asked about the project as the authority is always appointed by the President; this means that a new President equals a new Federal Capital Territory Authority. Since the project was commissioned nine years ago, there have been changes at executive level but there’s yet to be any discernible progress recorded.