In this feature, CHIMA AKWAJA, examines the role emergency communications centres being built across the states and the national emergency helpline plays to secure lives and property especially during the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing way on insurgency and banditry in some parts of the country.
Experts in the nation’s telecommunications industry say the building Emergency Communications Centres (ECCs) across the country by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) will have far-reaching impacts in enhancing the federal government’s drive to improve security of lives and property.
According to them, at a time when the country is faced with insecurity issues such as indulgency, banditry, kidnappings, armed robberies and many more life-threatening issues, such as the Coronavirus pandemic, the emergency communications centres, established by NCC across the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have become continually useful and central to saving lives.
With the rejig of the country’s service chiefs and the new mandate by President Muhammadu Buhari to end insurgency in the north east and flush our bandits in other parts of the country, the importance of the Emergency Communication Centres has come to light.
Need for Emergency Helpline
The ECC is a one-stop-shop through which members of the public can access help from any response agency such as the Nigeria Police (NPF), the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Fire and Ambulance Services, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and all its affiliate State Emergency Management Agencies, etc.
Already, with the ECCs established in 18 states of the Federation and another in the FCT, they say the ECC usefulness at emergencies helps people get quick response from agencies such as the Nigerian Police Force, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Fire and Ambulance Services, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), etc just by dialing 112 from any network.
The national chairman, Association of Licenced Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, said telecom operators value the lives of their consumers and it is a right step that the telecom regulator took the bold step to establish the ECCs, noting that the ECC would go a long way to help consumer reach emergency responders at the press of 112 on their phones.
The executive vice-chairman/CEO, NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, said each of the ECCs are equipped with the following facilities: eleven workstations (10 for call taking and one for the supervisor); a server system that receives and processes 112-calls from members of the public before the calls are dispatched to the appropriate response agency that has the responsibility to attend to the specific emergency; power supply mix consisting of the national grid, two units of 100 KVA generators, two units of 20kVA UPS and a 10KVa UPS; and the facility is also equipped with six dispatch workstations for the response agencies.
President Muhammadu Buhari, had early last year launched the Emergency Communications Centre, which activated the universal toll-free 112-number Service for Nigeria, in Abuja, through a virtual platform. This underscores the importance of the ECCs project as a veritable platform to enhance security of lives and property of Nigerians and the general public.
In all, the ECCs have been activated in 19 states of the country, including the FCT – The States are FCT, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, Plateau, Enugu, Benue, Akwa-Ibom, Cross-River, Oyo, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Adamawa, Kogi, Anambra and Imo states, which is being commissioned today. Efforts are ongoing to activate the Emergency Communications Centre in the remaining states of the federation.
The executive vice-chairman/CEO, NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta reiterated that members of the public do not have to memorise several 11-digit numbers from different response agencies, as has been the case before now – they simply have to dial 112 in times of distress/emergency to seek help. “I wish to reiterate that the 112 Emergency Number is totally toll-free – even when you have zero credit on your phone, you can dial and gain access to the 112-Services,” Danbatta said.
The president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engr. Ike Nnamani who lauded the NCC for the ECC, urged it to further extend it to all the remaining states. “Our engagement with the government has led to social-economic benefits that creating robust telecom and ICT infrastructure in the various states so that the telecom users can have access to social and health amenities especially in emergencies,” he said.
ECC Communication Role in Covid-19 Pandemic
During the total lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and even the present second wave, the ECCs played remarkable role by providing a platform for members of the public to seek lifesaving information or report COVID-19 related cases by dialling ‘112’ from any of the networks. Thousands of COVID-19-related calls were received and processed by the ECCs across Nigeria.
Danbatta noted that, “The ECC has transformed lives and helped many in handling emergencies and today. It is having positive impacts on lives, improving security and providing jobs for Nigerian youths.” He said other states are asking NCC to come and activate their ECCs and serious work is ongoing in that regard, “As we know that this important life-saving facility supports security architecture in the country for improving security in our nation.”
The ECC project had been in limbo until a new management under the leadership of Prof. Danbatta, embarked on the construction and operationalisation of the ECCs across states of Nigeria and the FCT in calculated bid to enhance President Muhammadu Buhari’s ongoing efforts at improving security situation in Nigeria.