Johnson Salako: Building Nigeria’s Critical Communications Network

Johnson Salako is the CEO of MPS Technologies Ltd, a company that has been tasked with managing Nigeria’s national security communications system for the police and other security agencies. This article will look at measures implemented by the Nigerian government to tackle crime and instability by upgrading telecommunications infrastructure throughout major cities across the country.

For Nigerians, 2022 was a somewhat unsettled year, having been a precursor to the country’s general elections which were scheduled for the first quarter of 2023. This in itself was a massive endeavor, with electoral campaigns and related activities staged against the backdrop of spiraling insecurity.

The country suffered several terrorist attacks in 2022, with a passenger train travelling from Abuja to Kaduna ambushed and attacked by terrorists and more than 30 people killed in a terrorist attack on a church in Owo in Ondo State. In addition, the run-up to elections tends to be marred by violence in the country, with security experts warning of a potential escalation in violence.

Every region of Nigeria is affected by insecurity today, with experts warning that significant reform is required if Africa’s largest democratic nation is to become safer for its citizens. The nature of violence and insecurity seen in the country is also changing. While Boko Haram was historically largely confined to north-eastern regions of the country, fast-forward to the present and other non-state armed groups are spreading violence, with south-eastern regions engulfed by criminal opportunism and separatist violence, crippling businesses in major trading centers like Onitsha in Anambra State. North-central regions are still grappling with a farmer-herder crisis that arose in around 1999, which is complicated by a mix of jihadi-style banditry and herder militancy, particularly in regions of Niger State. Meanwhile, in the south-west, in cities like Lagos, there has been an uptick in violent crime on top of an already significant problem of oil theft and piracy in the Niger Delta.

As part of their efforts to counteract these challenges, the Nigerian government has launched an ambitious initiative, pledging to deploy a network of thousands of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras across Nigerian cities in line with international security standards. An electronic surveillance system developed to monitor buildings, premises and individuals, over the years CCTV has grown to become a mainstream crime detection tool, as well as an effective crime prevention strategy.

According to security experts, rising crime and insecurity across Nigeria today is fueling an increased need for CCTV installations, with many government officials convinced of their potential to help curb and avert crime.

Ondo State Executive Director Rotimi Akeredolu signed an executive order for the compulsory use of CCTV devices in both private and public institutions across the state following the Owo church terrorist attack. In addition, Senate President Ahmed Lawan expressed disappointment during a visit to the invaded Kuje Prison upon observing that there were no CCTV cameras mounted in the area.

In December 2022, Dr Muhammad Migari Dingyadi, Nigeria’s Minister of Police Affairs, revealed that the federal government had agreed to place a private company in charge of the operational activities of the National Public Security Communication System, enabling them to operate it on a private commercial basis in a bid to strengthen the country’s security services, a move that was approved by the Federal Executive Council and President Muhammadu Buhari. The move paved the way for the National Communications Commission to issue an operating license to MPS, enabling the company to manage Nigeria’s National Public Security Communication System for the interest of the general public.

Mr Dingyadi indicated that, once fully implemented, the project would enable the police to monitor and oversee everything happening in the country in real time at police command centers, enabling law enforcement to rapidly respond to situations across the country and overcome current security challenges.

Nigeria’s National Communications Commission has granted MPS a Universal Access Service License, enabling it to commence operations. Meanwhile, a report recently published by MPS revealed that out of a total of 696 operating site towers, 100 have already been successfully rehabilitated, with 10 of the country’s 37 data centers also operational once more.

The National Communications Commission is currently in the final phase of issuing operating licenses, enabling the concessionaire to embark on full commercialization of facilities. As a result of improved security in major cities, making Nigeria a safer country to live and work in, experts also predict significant economic benefits for the country.

In addition to operating the National Public Security Communication System and Public CCTV for Smart City Initiative, MPS also provides an enhanced broadband service, a co-location hosting service and a data center hosting service. Providing unparalleled and seamless connectivity, MPS helps the businesses it serves to provide enhanced services and accelerate growth via a full spectrum of integrated solutions, helping businesses to manage the burden of IT infrastructure and solutions.

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