On March 19, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari, commissioned the Communications and Digital Economy Complex (CDEC), a sprawling structure built by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) conspicuously located at the Mbora District of Abuja.
The President also used the opportunity of commissioning of the structure, which he described to be the coordinating hub for the digital economy activities of the Federal Government, to unveiled the National Broadband Plan (NBP) 2020–2025, flagged off the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training Scheme (DIETS) and launched the Abuja Emergency Communication Centre (ECC) and the National Emergency Toll-Free Number, 112.
Curiously, of particular significance among all the projects unveiled by the President during the Commissioning of the CDEC was the ECC/112, initiative, a project, whose full implementation came to fruition under the leadership of Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, current Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, with the main focus ‘boosting Federal Government’s push for improved security of lives and property’.
During his swearing-in ceremony for the second term in office in 2018, President Buhari had clearly stated the focus of its administration to improve economy, combat corruption and improve security of lives and property. With respect to the last agenda – improve security of lives and property- the current administration aims rev up measures against kidnapping, armed banditry, insurgency and other vices.
Therefore, it is instructive that the Danbatta-led NCC management, in its foresight, put in place concrete measures, which have helped in fast tracking the building of the ECC in 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) till date, with plans ongoing to extend ECC/112 facilities to other states of the Federation.
The Centres, which serve as clearinghouse for the handling of 112 Emergency Number, have, thus, become a useful national resource, serving the populace who may need help from any emergency response agency (ERAs)in times of any emergencies, especially in the areas of handling Coronavirus pandemic-related calls or other emergencies during this lockdown.
The NCC has lived up to the expectation in the last four years, through aligning itself with the ongoing efforts of the Federal Government to improve security of lives and property for Nigerian citizens. This effort has been in the area of reinvigorating the implementation of the Emergency Communication Centres (ECC) project.
Abundant reports have indicated that the ECC project, apart from offering a round-the-clock access to Nigerians who may seek help during emergencies or impending threats to life and property, the centres are also providing links for the citizens to connect to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) by merely dialing 112 Emergency Number to report any COVID-19-related case. This is aside several other socio-economic benefits this security-enhancing project brings to Nigerians.
The implementation of the ECC is never one of those empty projects usually embarked upon by some government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The Project has a legal foundation. It was embarked upon in line with Section 107 (3) (a) & (b) of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 which spell out the NCC’s mandates with respect to provision of the emergency number for the country.
The mandates on NCC, as enshrined in the Act, include taking “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 encouraging and facilitate the prompt deployment throughout Nigeria of seamless, ubiquitous and reliable end-to-end infrastructure for emergency communications needs.”
Danbatta, who his remarks at the President are commissioning of the CDEC, said the Commission acknowledges that the issues of security must be a collective responsibility. According to him, “the Commission realised that the task of ensuring security is not the sole responsibility of the government or a government. Rather, all must be involved to bring the security situation under control because security threats are not limited to any section of the country.”
This realisation must have informed why the NCC, in the last four years, has continuously paid special attention to the implementation of the ECCs, as the ECC project got fully activated, following the NCC’s resolve to pay greater attention to the implementation of the project.
Today, the ECC project is definitely adding a lot of value to the country’s security architecture by providing useful information on emergency situations to NCDC and other emergency and law enforcement agencies, which are expected to provide the much-needed help to Nigerians during this COVID-19 emergency situation.
Apart from the FCT’s, the other 17 states in the Federation, where the ECC/112 facility have been fully functional include: Benue, Kwara, Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Adamawa.
It is not surprising that the role of the Commission in deploying ECC/112 facilities across sthe country to boost security in the country is receiving recognitions already. First, the NCC was conferred with the award of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Security and Emergency Management while its Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, was recognised as Nigeria’s Goodwill Ambassador in Security and Emergency Management at the 2019 Maiden Security and Emergency Management Awards hosted in Abuja last December by the Emergency Digest, in conjunction with the Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC).
Accordingly, the Commission has also been inducted into the membership of the Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA) in February, 2020, in recognitions of the critical role the ECC is playing in securing safety of lives and properties of Nigerians.
We believe that the ECC/112 project by the NCC is a laudable initiative that should be commended by all Nigerians, considering how strategic the 112 Number is to NCDC in the ongoing efforts to contain the devastating impacts of COVID-19 spread on Nigerians through providing a link for Nigerians to reach out to emergency response agencies in case of any emergency situations.
The NCC’s ECC/112 National Emergency Number comes handy at this critical time just as we recommend that the Management of NCC continue to closely monitor the facilities to ensure they handle COVID-19-related calls, among others promptly for NCDC’s action or to other relevant agencies for necessary actions to save lives and properties.