A Nigerian newspaper, The Punch, report have shown how the cold war between the Federal Government and Lagos State Government may be the reason why the latter has stopped the Lagos Safe City Project, a scheme aimed at providing 10,000 solar-powered closed circuit cameras all over the metropolis.
This emerged against the backdrop of the increasing cases of kidnapping in Lagos, a menace that has defied efforts by the police and other in the state.
While making enquiries about police effort in tracking kidnappers through the security cameras in the state, a police source at the State Criminal Investigation Department told our correspondent that security cameras had never been used in their investigations.
“The only time we make use of CCTV cameras is when our investigation takes us to a hotel or mall with security cameras. But if it is a crime committed on a Lagos road, forget it,” the source said.
Governor Babatunde Fashola had stated in January 2009 that the 10,000 cameras the state planned to install were to help to reduce crime in the state.
At a demonstration event, Fashola said the number of policemen in the state was inadequate considering the number of people in the state.
He said at the time, “Eighteen million people cannot be protected and policed by 33,000 people. This is impossible. No matter how much we try to increase the number of policemen, we cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result.
“In an information technology-driven world, we have to be counted as one of those states and communities which will adopt best practices. Cameras, sensors, tracking devices are the nerve centre of these facilities that would assist men and officers of the police force, fire service among others to do their duty much more effectively.”
The project was to be funded by the Lagos Security Trust Fund while the cameras were supposed to be managed remotely through a central security command unit. Four years after this announcement was made, the state has not had a taste of those promises.
Our correspondent contacted the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, on why the cameras have yet to be installed as the governor promised.
Ibirogba simply said the matter was out of the hands of the state government.
He said, “The problem with the issue of security cameras has nothing to do with the state government.
“When we were about to embark on their installation, the Federal Government contacted us and said we needed to stop. The reason we were given was that the FG had a scheme in the pipeline, which involved the installation of security cameras all over major cities in the country.
“According to the Federal Government, Lagos was going to be in the first phase of the project. That was why we stopped our own project.
“But we have since written a letter to the Federal Government, asking it to tell us those locations where the cameras will be installed so that when we begin to install ours, we would not duplicate locations. That is where we currently stand.”
A state government official, who is also familiar with the issue, said the Federal Government’s negative attitude to it might be political.
“We all know the security cameras issue may remain buried as far as the Federal Government is concerned. If you think the Federal Government is overly concerned about Lagos, a state that is not controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party, then you are naïve,” the government source said.
Efforts to get the Presidency’s reaction did not yield positive result on Thursday as the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, could not be reached on his not pick the calls made to his telephone line.