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In Focus The twin evils of terror, corruption

In 2010, the Federal Government under the immediate past administration, commissioned a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) project in Lagos and Abuja to address the growing security concerns in the country.

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In 2010, the Federal Government under the immediate past administration, commissioned a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) project in Lagos and Abuja to address the growing security concerns in the country. The contract was awarded to ZTE Corporation of China for the princely sum of US$470million.

To finance the CCTV project, the Federal Government made a first installment payment of $70.5 million (15 per cent) while China’s Exim Bank provided the balance of $399.5 million as a loan to be repaid at 3% interest per annum over a 10 year period. 

Today, though some 2,000 cameras have been installed by ZTE, representing but a fraction of the total expected, the project is yet to be successfully tested or commissioned.

Investigations by Thisday Newspaper in 2013 showed instead that the project was bedeviled by “dysfunctional systems and components, broken units occasioned by explosions from installed batteries of the CCTV cameras, for example at an intercession between the Kashim Ibrahim Way and Aminu Kano Crescent in Wuse 2, as well as incomplete units at various parts of Abuja…”, concluding that “the CCTV project appears to have added nothing to the arsenal available to Nigeria’s security outfit…”.

Unfortunately, the inability of the contractor to deliver the project has been further underscored by the growing cases of armed theft, traffic crimes, vandalism, rape, and most notably, terror attacks in the major cities and the Northern part of the country.

As some observers opined, the botched CCTV project involving ZTE and their local partners should in fact be treated on a par with the on-going “Dasukigate”, which can be summarized as a case of “security funds divergence”; this divergence of funds otherwise earmarked to bolster the country’s fight against terrorism has led to the loss of hundreds of military and civilian lives especially in the North Eastern part of the country, and also in Abuja, which has come under several deadly attacks over the past few years with little or no leads as to the capture of the attackers.

Interestingly, Zambia, another African country where ZTE operates, terminated a $210 million CCTV contract with the company in 2013 because of alleged corruption.

More recently, on the 7 of January this year, the largest sovereign fund in the world, Norway's $820 billion oil fund blacklisted ZTE due to concerns about corruption. The company was excluded on the basis of a recommendation from the fund's own ethics council which confirmed that ZTE is facing corruption charges and or investigation in 18 countries around the world including Nigeria.

It is therefore imperative that the federal government avoids the errors and pitfalls of the last administration by ensuring that relevant government agencies carry out their due diligence exercises in the selection of project contractors. This will not only save increasingly scarce financial resources, but also the lives of innocent Nigerians both military and civilian, who are the unfortunate victims of the callous actions of compromised foreign contractors and their local partners.  

Cases such as the Abuja CCTV contract and the on-going arms deal investigation have greatly damaged Nigeria’s international reputation and further projected the negative image the country has acquired over the past few years; it is incontrovertible therefore, that the handling of these 2 cases will show the seriousness of the administration’s anti-graft war to the international community.

If state and federal agencies are able to apply international best practices in the award, monitoring and evaluation of public contracts, the country’s daunting fight against the twin evils of corruption, and by extension terrorism, will certainly have a greater chance of success.

This is a feature by Jaiye Ashton, social critic, Rivers State

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