Addressing Insecurity with Emergency Communications Centre

Given the global insecurity situation, which is already spreading across Nigeria in the areas of cyberattacks, online bullying, identity theft, call masking, online transaction fraud, invasion of privacy and robbery among others, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and in line with the agenda of the Federal Government to improve economy, curb corruption and improve security, has successfully launched Emergency Communications Centres In 18 different locations across the country, including the federal capital territory, Abuja. The plan is to launch the ECC in all states of the federation. In September this year, NCC launched that of Katsina State, bringing the total number of Emergency Communications across the country to 18, including Abuja, the seat of government.

The essence is to address insecurity both in the country and in the telecoms sector, through the provision of a universal, toll-free emergency telephone short code (112) for use by members of the public in Nigeria to seek for help in times of distress and emergency. The ECC platform provides a one-stop shop for receiving distress calls from the public and dispatching same to appropriate Response Agencies who are first responders to the need of the callers. Since its launch, NCC has continued to receive commendations from the public, who have used the short code to avert personal security challenges. Just last week, NCC and its Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, emerged winners of two separate awards in recognition of their efforts towards safeguarding the security of lives and property of Nigerians in the country through the execution of the Emergency Communications Centres project across each state of the federation, including the federal capital territory, Abuja. NCC is leveraging Information and Communications Commission (ICT) to facility deployment across different states to set up emergency toll-free number 112, similar to the 119 in the USA, to provide communication link between Nigerians in emergency and necessary government agencies that can offer them help during such emergency situations.

The making of ECC

In line with the decision of the Nigerian government to enhance security of lives and property in the country and in apparent response to public demand, the National Assembly, in 2003, enacted the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) and in Section 107 of that Act, the NCC was mandated to take immediate steps upon the commencement of the Act to promote and enhance public safety through the use of a particular number which shall be designed as the universal safety and emergency assistance number for telephone services generally; and encourage and facilitate the prompt deployment throughout Nigeria of seamless, ubiquitous and reliable end-to-end infrastructure for emergency communications needs.

Consequently, in 2005, the then Minister of Communications, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, set up a ministerial committee to recommend modalities and procedures for the establishment of an emergency communications system for Nigeria. The committee was made up of representatives of the Police, NCC, Ministry of Communications, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the then Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
The Ministerial Committee made far-reaching recommendations that included the enactment of an Act of the National Assembly to create a National Emergency Communications Agency (NECA) to be responsible for the deployment, regulation and management of the centres all over the country.

The then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2006 subsequently gave approval for the implementation of the committee’s recommendations as presented by the Honourable Minister. However, in the absence of the recommended Act to create the proposed NECA, the Board of the NCC, in 2006, with the endorsement of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), approved the establishment of one-model Emergency Communications Centre (ECC) in each of the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

Each state was then requested to allocate a suitable piece of land, as its counterpart contribution for establishment of the ECC in the state, while NCC was to build, equip and operate the centres for some years before handing over to the states.

Since government is a continuum, Danbatta, on assumption of office in 2015, released his 8-Point Agenda and made security paramount, with a promise to leverage technology to address national insecurity. So far NCC has commissioned 18 ECC centres in different states of the country, including Katsina State and the federal capital territory, Abuja. The states where ECC has been established, include: FCT, Benue, Kwara, Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo, Enugu, Anambra and Adamawa.

ECC launch in Katsina

Speaking at the launch of Emergency Communications Centre in Katsina State, which was commissioned by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, on September 23, 2019, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said the project was essentially aimed at enhancing the security of lives and property of our people in Katsina State, while commending the state governor for his contributions towards the successful launch. According to him, “It is common knowledge that security of life and property is a prerequisite for progress in any society or nation. Individuals, both great and small, often encounter emergency situations at different times in life.

“However, it has become a common occurrence for innocent lives to be lost in minor emergencies, which ordinarily could have been averted if help was timely available. This is what obtains in developed societies with the ‘911’ service in the United States of America being one of the best-known examples of an emergency assistance number.
“What we are witnessing is the birth of our own national emergency number for the security of lives and properties of our people. Consequently, the NCC has approved a Toll-Free 3-digit number ‘112’ as the Universal Emergency Communication telephone number in Nigeria. Through this dedicated number, members of the public can conveniently access help when in distress by simply dialing 112 from any of the networks they use and they shall not be charged.”

Also speaking at the Katsina launch, the Chairman, Governing Board at NCC, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye said: “The commissioning of the Katsina Emergency Communications Centre is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision to enhance lives and property of Nigerians, at a time the Federal Government is concerned about fighting insurgency, kidnapping, as well as mitigating road accidents, fire outbreaks or any other life-threatening occurrences in the country.
“While successive governments have made various efforts, at different times, towards achieving this auspicious Emergency Communications Centre project, we are happy that its actual implementation is coming to reality under the current Board of the NCC through the support of Mr. President and the various state governments.”

About ECC

Emergency Communication Centre is a one-stop-shop through which members of the public can access help from any Response Agency such as the Police, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Fire and Ambulance Services, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) among others, by dialing 112 from any network, free of charge.

Each ECC is equipped with emergency communication facilities such as: Eleven Workstations, 10 for call taking and one for the centre supervisor;
A server system that receives and processes 112-calls from members of the public and then dispatches the calls to the appropriate Agency that has responsibility to attend to the specific emergency. Members of the public do not have to memorise several 11-digit numbers from different Response Agencies, as it may have been the case; Power supply mix consisting of public power supply from the national grid, two units of 100KVA generators; and two units of 20KVA UPS powered by 160 units of 100AH inverter batteries and a 10KVA UPS powered by 16 units of 100AH inverter batteries; and the facility is also equipped with six dispatch workstations for the Response Agencies.
The Emergency Communication Centre (ECC) is a national project. At the moment, seventeen states and the FCT have functional ECCs, but according to NCC, efforts were being made to activate ECCs in the remaining states of the federation.

NCC says it is committed towards delivering on its mandate of ensuring effective regulations of the telecommunications industry for the good of all Nigerians. Danbatta commended all State Governors where ECC has bee established, for their immense contributions in making the initiative successful in all states where it has been implemented.

The benefits

Speaking on the benefits of ECC, Durojaiye said the Emergency Communication Centre would be available in all the 36 states of the Federation and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and would bring huge benefits to Nigerian people. He listed some of the benefits to include: Provide citizens and members of the public with a free and easy access to the agencies of government charged with the responsibility for public safety in times of distress; Provide the response agencies such as the Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Fire and Ambulance Services), among others, with timely information to prevent crime, rescue distressed people, mitigate and possibly prevent disasters.

According to him, the resultant efficiency of the Response Agencies would therefore translate to more economic activities and boom for the state. Owing to its huge benefits, Durojaiye called for support and collaboration of the state governments to among other things, mobilise the Response Agencies under the coordination of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to fully participate in the operations of the centre for effective service delivery to the good people of Nigeria. He also called on the various governments to support the Centre for a 24/7 ceaseless operations, as is expected of a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAS), by connecting the Centre to the State-owned Independent Power Plant (IPP). He also called for further support for the centre’s operations by extending pipe-borne water to the centres. According to him, “This is very much desired in consideration of the fact that the Commission’s effort to supply water to the centres by drilling a borehole has not yielded the desire result due to the topography of the site of most states.”

Recognition

NCC’s drive in enhancing security of life an property through the Emergency Communications Centre (ECC) project, which became fully activated under the leadership of Prof. Umar Danbatta, has continued to attract recognition from reputable bodies. Last week, the Commission’s efforts towards addressing insecurity in the country, culminated in double recognitions that came the way of the Commission on the one hand and the Danbatta on the other hand during the 1st Security and Emergency Management Awards held in Abuja, hosted by the Emergency Digest, a publication of Image Merchants Promotion Limited, in conjunction with the Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC). At the well-attended event by all security and emergency institutions as well as other critical stakeholders in the country, the NCC and Danbatta beat other contenders for their categories – from 18 categories- to win the Corporate Social Responsibility Award in Security and Emergency Management and Goodwill Ambassador Award in Security and Emergency Management respectively. Receiving the two awards on behalf of the Commission and the EVC, Head, Emergency Communications project, NCC, Chukwuma Aizkiwe, who also delivered the EVC keynote address at the forum, said the “Commission and Danbatta considered it a great honour to be recognised for the concerted efforts that the NCC family is making in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act to strengthen security of lives and property in the country. To this end, the Danbatta-led NCC has prioritised the need to accelerate work on the Emergency Communications Centre in each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. So far, 18 ECC have become operational in 18 states including the Federal capital territory.” Delivering the EVC’s keynote address on “leveraging on Emergency Communication Centre for National Security’, Azikwe said discourse on security situation is a topical issue and of national concern, which every citizen of this country is conscious of, as its affects their well-being.

According to him, “Consequently, in line with the NCA 2003, the Commission has revved up efforts to opening ECC in each state with an emergency number ‘112’ and is currently collaborating with necessary stakeholders in line with the NCC’s 8-Point Agenda towards ensuring effective and efficient management of the ECC and service delivery; facilitate and ensuring adoption/usage and publicity of the 112 by the public and response agencies; enhancing the discharge of the statutory responsibility of the respective response agency in the country; and decreasing emergency response time.”

Chairman of Panel of Jury, SAEMA 2019, Mohammed Audu-Bida, said nominations for winners were based on verifiable outstanding performance and track record of excellence in the category for which the nomination was made. According to him, a total of 254 entries were received for all the categories out which 136 nominees qualified for the competition. Thereafter, 54 finalists were selected by the jury from which 18 winners of the 18 categories emerged. The Award was instituted to recognise the immeasurable and invaluable contributions to the security, emergency management, peace development by individuals, groups and relevant stakeholders. It recognises gallantry, rescue efforts, safety measures, teamwork and outstanding contributions to security and emergency management in Nigeria.