The federal republic of Nigeria has concluded arrangements to install 10,000 units of video surveillance cameras on Nigerian highways. The plan is to use the security equipment as a channel to curb insecurity and crime on Nigerian roads.
As noble as this plan is, many people believe it is another white elephant project which would enrich a few people and allow them to embezzle public funds.
This news has generated a lot of buzz online and many élite Nigerians have expressed their concerns on social media saying:
That will go a long way in curbing criminal activities and other social vices, but there should be proper maintenance of the dilapidated roads before the CCTV cameras are installed.
another person wrote:
Feel sorry for my country…you can’t even provide national id card for your citizens… you are here talking of surveillance cameras…another way to move $USD TO OVERSEAS ACCOUNTS
Why Nigeria Isn’t Ready For Public Video Surveillance
I believe the benefits of installing video security systems in public and highways are obvious so I won’t spend time listing them.
Rather, I’m going to show you 10 reasons why I think installing surveillance cameras on Nigerian roads is ridiculous and an absolute laughable project – at least for now until certain infrastructures are put in place.
Electricity Supply Still Makes Nigerians Miserable
I can’t remember how long this problem has persisted in Nigeria but I do know that the country is almost a laughing-stock of many other countries. A Few West African countries including Ghana have celebrated several years of uninterrupted power supply.
Without consistent predictable electricity or alternative power supply, video surveillance infrastructure in Nigeria will never be a success.
Ghana particularly is making plans to begin selling electricity to Nigeria by 2015. If you’re well into history, you’d remember than thousands of Ghanaians came to Nigeria several years ago.
Many of them worked as shoe cobblers (shoeshine) on Nigerian streets. They’ve all returned home as their country’s economy has improved dramatically.
Christiana Amanpour, a reporter on CNN even downplayed the 35 minutes power outage during the US Super Bowl saying it’s nothing, compared with “the power outage and blackouts… that have plagued Nigeria…” for years.
Nigeria needs to fix electricity problems or invest in alternative energy sources like wind and solar. It’s not enough for the President to make promises on CNN, there must be results.
Nigerian Internet Speed is Like a Drop in the Ocean
When you carry out centralized video surveillance infrastructure, there should be a control center where all video feeds will be stored, monitored and analyzed.
For example, the only way to transfer videos from cameras installed on Lagos-Ibadan expressway to a control center in Ikoyi is through the internet.
You cannot use wires and cables like electricity. Of course, it’s possible to work with network operators like Glo and MTN but this will rather result in expensive operational cost.
Now, for videos surveillance to be useful, it must be transmitted to and from control centers as fast as possible.
Question is, how do we transfer images from those highway video surveillance cameras without good high-speed internet access?
Theft, Vandalism, Riots and hooliganism Hinder Development
When people go on riots in Nigeria, public facilities suffer for it. During a riot in Abuja few years ago, many street lights and traffic lights were destroyed while many other public amenities were looted or stolen.
Imagine what would happen to those cameras if they aren’t vandalized. Yes, they’d be ripped off and sold at a black market in Aba or Alaba market in Lagos.
People climb high tension electricity poles to steal cables without giving a hoot about how dangerous it is. Do you think ripping of security cameras from poles would be a problem for them?
Most Nigerian Roads Are Death Traps in Disguise
Go on Google and do an image search for “Nigerian Roads”, you’d be amazed at how terrible those roads are.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some good roads but most of them are in the capital city, Abuja, which has enjoyed consistent development in recent years.
You can count the number of well-constructed highways with good street lights and working traffic lights on your fingers. That shows you how much work the country still needs to do before we can have an efficient road network.
Without good roads with working traffic and street lights, video surveillance in Nigeria will be like running-on-the-spot – Lots of noise and activities without progress.
The Society Has Appalling Maintenance Culture
Visit the Liberty stadium in Ibadan, National stadium in Lagos and the new stadium in Abuja and see how devastated those stadia used for junior world cup in 2009 look.
Video security cameras are not installed and forget. They need to be monitored and maintained. Nigerian weather can be harsh, humid, hot, windy and dry. all these can affect the cameras.
Surveillance cameras are like cars, the more you maintain and care for them, the longer they will last.
Lack of Low Cost Local Camera Component Manufacturers
Now let’s be realistic, 10,000 surveillance cameras on Nigerian highways, the most populous nation in Africa?
They’re kidding right?
10,000 cameras are nothing, and please don’t tell me this is a test project because as we all know, it may as well be the last thing anyone would hear about the project once the funds have been disbursed.
Most of these cameras would be sourced from China undoubtedly. There’s no local manufacturing company in Nigeria to produce cheaper products for large-scale installation. Who’s benefiting more, China or Nigeria?
Little or No Computing Hardware & Software
For video surveillance to be efficient there should be various control centers. Police should be provided with portable surveillance video monitors, the size of an iPad.
Police vehicles also should have remote internet access to receive video feeds. Special software must be designed to help communication between law enforcement agents before they can capture a fleeing criminal.
Without such hardware and software integration, highway video surveillance in Nigeria is like a toddler playing chess.
Police and Law Enforcement Agents Lack Basic IT Skills & Knowledge
I’ve got few questions for you:
How many Nigerian police can use computers effectively? How many understand anything about Internet? How many of them actually get proper training and know the law of the country?
How many Nigerian police can fluently recite the national anthem or pledge?
The organization requested for 5,000 police. Let’s hope they’d give them special training, at least.
Scary Poverty & Unemployment Rates
It’s no more news that over 70% of Nigerians live below poverty line and several spend less than $2 almost N350) per day.
Don’t you think they’d be more than ready to dismount the cameras, sell them or exchange them for recharge cards?
Lack of Adequate Support Infrastructure
Video surveillance alone is not enough. We need the various organizations to work together. Proper logistics must be implemented.
It must be clear if surveillance monitoring would be provided by an independent private organization or government. Let’s stop putting the cart before the horse. Let’s address the most important problems, then, others will be add-ons.