Revisit $470m Lagos, Abuja CCTV project – Stakeholders urge Buhari

By The Citizen

President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to beam his anti-corruption searchlight on the $470million Close Circuit Television (CCTv) contract awarded in 2010 to a Chinese vendor, ZTE Corporation.

The contract covered the provision CCTv in Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to address the growing security concerns in the country.

To finance the project, the Federal Government made a first installment payment of $70.5 million (15 per cent) while China's Exim Bank provided the balance of $399.5 million as a loan to be repaid at three per cent interest per annum over a 10 year period.

Though some 2,000 cameras have been installed by ZTE, representing but a fraction of the total expected, the project is yet to be successfully tested or commissioned.

Jaiye Ashton, a social critic, at the weekend, alleged that the project was bedeviled by dysfunctional systems and components, broken units occasioned by explosions from installed batteries of the CCTV cameras. He cited an intercession between the Kashim Ibrahim Way and Aminu Kano Crescent in Wuse 2, as well as incomplete units at various parts of Abuja. The CCTV project appears to have added nothing to the arsenal available to Nigeria's security outfit, he averred.

According to him, the inability of the contractor to deliver the project has been further underscored by the growing cases of armed theft, traffic crimes, vandalism, rape, and most notably, terror attacks in the major cities and the Northern part of the country.

But ZTE has denied doing any wrong, saying it delivered the project to the Nigeria Police Force, at Force Headquarters, Abuja. It added that running and maintaining the equipment now rests with Nigerians.

'Electricity remains a major challenge in the country. So, fuelling the equipment must have posed a big challenge to the law enforcement agency saddled with the management of the equipment. On whether the project was delivered or not, there is no gain saying that fact. It was delivered to the former Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed  Abubakar,' a source close to the firm explained.

Ashton said the botched project should be treated simultaneously with on-going 'Dasukigate' because it is similar to diversion of funds earmarked to bolster the country's fight against terrorism. This he said has led to the loss of hundreds of military and civilian lives especially in the Northeast and Abuja, which has come under several deadly attacks over the past few years with no leads as to the capture of the attackers.

He alleged that Zambia terminated a $210 million CCTV contract with the company in 2013 over corruption allegation.

He alleged that the largest sovereign fund in the world, Norway's $820 billion oil fund blacklisted ZTE due to concerns about corruption. The company was excluded on the basis of a recommendation from the fund's own ethics council which confirmed that ZTE is facing corruption charges and or investigation in 18 countries around the world including Nigeria.

'It is therefore imperative that the Federal Government avoids the errors and pitfalls of the last administration by ensuring that relevant government agencies carry out their due diligence exercises in the selection of project contractors. This will not only save increasingly scarce financial resources, but also the lives of innocent Nigerians both military and civilian, who are the unfortunate victims of the callous actions of compromised foreign contractors and their local partners,' he said.

He argued that cases such as the Abuja CCTV contract and the on-going arms deal investigation have greatly damaged Nigeria's international reputation and further projected the negative image the country has acquired over the past few years; it is incontrovertible therefore, that the handling of these 2 cases will show the seriousness of the administration's anti-graft war to the international community.

If states and federal agencies are able to apply international best practices in the award, monitoring and evaluation of public contracts, the country's daunting fight against the twin evils of corruption, and by extension terrorism, will certainly have a greater chance of success, he added. The Nation.