BY Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA—THE House of Representatives yesterday directed its Committees on Information and Communication Technology, ICT, Public Safety and National Security to probe the failure of ZTE Corporation to execute contract for the installation of Close Circuit Television Cameras, CCTVs, in Abuja and Lagos, years after it was awarded by the Federal Government.
The contract allegedly awarded at the cost of $470 million (N76 billion then) by the late Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s administration had been a subject of litigation, as an Abuja-based lawyer, Olugbenga Adeyemi, had in the past gone to court, seeking an order to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate the failed contract.
However, not much was heard afterward, even after a High Court sitting in Abuja granted leave for Adeyemi to apply for the judicial review of mandamus compelling the 1st respondent, EFCC, to investigate and prosecute those involved in the contract.
Apparently disturbed by the current spate of insecurity in the nation, a member of the House, Saviour Udoh, in a motion on the urgent need to deploy CCTV cameras to check the security challenges in Nigeria, prayed that the matter be investigated by the Committees, which are expected to turn in their reports within two weeks.
The contract was for the Chinese telecommunications giant to install 2,000 digital solar powered cameras, (1,000 each for Abuja and Lagos), 37 switch rooms, MW backbone, 37 coalition emergency response system, 38 video conference subsystem, 37 e-police system, six emergency communication vehicles and 1.5 million subscriber lines, designed to be funded by the Nigerian government and the China Export Bank as contained in the contract papers.
Udoh recalled that the security system was intended to capture images on a 24-hour basis for the analysis of the relevant security agencies, but noted that despite the alleged completion and handover to the government since 2012, no criminal activity had ever been detected through the security cameras.
In a related development,the House of Representatives yesterday lamented what it called “a notorious” act of indiscriminate extortion of money and pilfering of luggage belonging to travelers using the nation’s international airports by security agents who are supposed to secure same.
The House expressed worries based on the fact that airports were the first and last contact points between travelers and countries as they either created a good impression or the opposite on citizens visiting or traveling out of the country.
This followed a motion on matters of urgent national importance brought by Hassan Saleh, (PDP, Benue), calling attention of the House to excesses of security operatives at the nation’s airports.
Hassan Saleh noted: “It is a notorious fact that our security operatives at the country’s airports have developed a very huge bottomless appetite for extorting money from passengers who are either traveling out or into the country by using all flimsy excuses to intimidate and frustrate some passengers despite meeting all the requisite conditions to travel so as to part with some monies”.
“That this huge number of security operatives have brought about slowing down of intended travelers in the process of screening before they get to the boarding gate, while they brazingly engage in illicit activities of extorting money from travelers and those arriving into the country.”
He explained that the near total collapse of the CCTV cameras at the airports, particularly the luggage hall of the international terminal of the Lagos airport and other airports, had made pilfering of passengers’ luggage very easy without detection.
“These operatives are so shameless that they no longer hide this demeaning act of theirs, reason being that they are aware that a lot of the CCTV cameras at the airports are not working, rather than operate as undercover agents at the airport, they now compete in the bid to outdo each other by intimidating and creating fear in the mind of intending travelers and those arriving into the country while others are scheming to be posted to the airports which is seen as ‘cash cow’ for milking,” he said.
He said these acts put together were portraying the nation in negative light not only before its citizen in diaspora, but also foreigners.
After taking the prayer mandating the relevant Committees to direct the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, to urgently re-activate or replace all non-functional CCTV cameras at the airports, the motion was referred to the House Committees on Interior and Aviation for further legislative action.
Also, yesterday, the 2014 budget Bills of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, have scaled second reading on the floor of the House.
While the Bill for an estimated total expenditure of N322.6 billion for the NDDC was referred to the Committee on the NDDC, that of the FCTA with the total estimates of N271.13 billion had been referred to the Committee on the FCT for further legislative actions.