Commendable is the recent efficiency drive of the national emergency line by the Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Pantami. The emergency 112 line, when it becomes efficiently active, allows persons in distress or emergency situations to contact relevant authorities, such as: Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal and States Fire Services, etc.
This emergency line will be active in areas without GSM network coverage, and it can also be activated without a SIM card. Nigeria has over 100 million mobile phone users, hence the need for government to proactively make this emergency line to work efficiently.
However, most of the security agencies that are saddled with our domestic security and safety are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Ministry of Interior. Agencies such as: Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and Federal Fire Service are all under the Federal Ministry of Interior.
Sometimes in February 2019, the then Minister of Interior, Lt Gen. A.B. Dambazau launched the Ministry’s Nigeria Internal Security and Public Safety Alert System (NISPSAS). This project, according to him, is aimed at achieving the following:
- Enhance effective joint coordination of emergency agencies and public safety response.
- Monitor and facilitate the degree of responsiveness of agencies to distress alerts and emergencies.
iii. Constantly monitor the level of preparedness of all agencies to emergency situations, and
- Provide need-statistics for internal security and public safety policy formulation.
The Ministry also launched Nigeria’s first-ever emergency and public safety App available for the Nigerian public – NISPSAS App.
However, the present Minister of Interior – Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola – has pledged to make intelligence-gathering as a major thrust for internal security. Despite this laudable approach to tackling insecurity and addressing public safety concerns in Nigeria, the relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Interior are obviously not talking to each other.
The 112 emergency line is nothing but a switchboard that connects a caller to the relevant agency for help. Let me give a hypothetic: If a person is caught up in a fire in his house, he sends a distress call to 112 to transfer him to the nearest fire service station. The fire service station is expected to mobilise the nearest fire engine and advance to the location of the distress caller.
This scenario, in my opinion, will take at least 60 minutes for necessary deployment and advancement. And it doesn’t end here, because for every fire outbreak there is the high likelihood of petty crime at the scene. The 112 line itself doesn’t have the capacity of coordination, such as bringing the Nigeria Police Force and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps personnel to this location. The 112 also does not have the capacity to coordinate ambulances. A robbery incidence may be happening a few metres away from the Rapid Response Squad patrol van without the security personnel knowing about it, because these patrol vans and personnel are not equipped to get reports of crime as they are happening.
What is critical here is not whether the 112 line is activated, but that government must also concurrently activate both the emergency line and also deploy necessary infrastructure in all relevant agencies for a seamless coordination. Take example of metropolitan Abuja, by some reasonable standard, the city meets up with the UN’s standard of fire engines. That is one fire engine within a 2-kilometre radius. However, these fire engines are not turned out immediately in the event of a fire outbreak because of lack of coordination and aggregation.
In as much as the Minister of Communications’ drive is commendable, it is imperative that he talks with his counterpart at the Federal Ministry of Interior to explore and synergise what both ministries are doing towards tackling insecurity and addressing public safety concerns. They should both knit this security and public safety net for efficiency and robust outcomes.
Nuhu Othman wrote from Abuja