Where are the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras that purportedly gulped $470 million in the Federal Capital Territory? Questions about their existence and effectiveness within Abuja are being asked, as bombing of the capital city at will by Boko Haram insurgents has not abated.
Security experts and residents have at different times tagged the project dead on arrival and expressed doubts that the cameras ever worked. In several reports done by LEADERSHIP, the federal government had been called to question over the functionality of the cameras.
A Federal High Court in Abuja had recently granted an ex-parte application, seeking an order of mandamus to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the controversial contract awarded to Chinese company, ZTE Corporation by the federal government.
It was also reported recently that the presidency following the failure of the CCTVs to contribute in the fight against insurgency had turned down a request by the Ministry of Police Affairs to pay additional N3billion to the contractor handling the project.
LEADERSHIP findings following the blast that rocked the EMAB Plaza in Wuse II on Wednesday afternoon, which left at least 24 people dead, show that if truly the CCTVs existed around the busy shopping complex, the suspected bombers would have been identified by now.
A senior police officer who spoke under condition of anonymity told LEADERSHIP weekend that only a few of the CCTV cameras are currently working. The reason for the breakdown of the cameras, according to him, includes lack of maintenance as well as power failure. "The truth is that some of them are not working. Definitely, not all of them can work. Some were faulty from day one. Others may suffer power failure. Moreover, not all parts of Abuja, even within the metropolis, are covered," the source said.
The officer also pointed out that the terrorists always try to avoid areas where there are visible CCTVs. "Terrorists are very intelligent crooks. When they want to select their target, they select places where the eyes of the camera will not come. That's where you hear things like CCTV cameras serving as deterrent. If they want to strike in Abuja I'm sure they will select their target away from the CCTVs," the officer said.
Also, the coordinator of the National Information Centre, Mr Mike Omeri, while giving an update on the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls and the fight against insurgency, collaborated LEADERSHIP findings when he revealed that the FCT lacked adequate CCTV to monitor activities in the metropolis and called on private organisations and public-spirited individuals to install the CCTV in their premises.
"The minister of FCT has said they are working. He said they are working on improving them. CCTV is not everywhere in the city; that is why we are calling on citizens to install CCTV and that is one way they can contribute to the fight against terrorism," Omeri said.
The coordinator, who is also the director-general of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, said the situation in the country demanded that everyone cooperate with the security agencies to rid the country of insurgents. He said though the CCTV cameras within the city are working, they are not in some parts of the city.
Experts express doubts over the functionality of Abuja CCTV
Meanwhile, security experts have expressed doubts over the operations of the several CCTV cameras installed in Abuja. Some of them who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend yesterday doubted the functionality of the CCTV in the capital city.
A former director of State Security Service (SSS), Mr Mike Ejiofor, was of the view that most of those installed in Abuja are not functioning. "From what we have seen, I doubt if the installed cameras are really working. We had up to three bombings now and we have not been told of any outcome from investigations from the cameras. When incidents like this happens, the cameras are supposed to pick up people who are involved in the crime but, so far, I don't know whether we have that facility or the existing ones are really functioning," he said.
Also, a former commissioner of police in the FCT, Mr Lawrence Alobi, while responding to LEADERSHIP Weekend, said the importance of CCTV camera cannot be overemphasised in combating crimes. The ex-police boss questioned the sincerity of those who handled the installation of CCTV in Abuja.
"The CCTV in Abuja, how functional are they? Who awarded the contracts? Are they functioning? Where are they located? How effective are they? What has been achieved from them and when were they installed? Are they CCTVs being maintained? These are the questions we should be asking," he said.
He also urged the federal government to come up with a policy of making all offices, businesses both public and private install CCTV cameras to check crimes in the country. He reminded all that the terrorists who bombed Boston in the United Stated were apprehended through a CCTV installed in a private restaurant.
"If it can be replicated in Nigeria, it will go a long way in helping us to checkmate insurgency in Nigeria," Alobi said.
FCT minister challenged to produce CCTV footage of bomber
Security expert Chief Gilbert Nwoko, who spoke with LEADERSHIP on the CCTVs in the FCT challenged the FCT minister, Sen. Balla Mohammed, to produce the footage of the EMAB Plaza bombing images if truly the FCT has functional CCTV.
Another security analyst, Otunba Bamidele Shodeinde, queried why the FCT minister would claim that CCTV cameras were working when the Boko Haram insurgents have successfully carried out several attacks on the FCT without leaving any trace behind. "Nigerians are no longer fools; we have advanced very far. It is only our leaders who don't want to advance and so they are always thinking that the people are as backward as them, if not even more backward.
"Everybody is asking the government how they spent billions of taxpayers' money installing CCTV cameras which are not working and cannot help in the fight to eradicate terrorism in the country.
"The Nyanya bombing happened the first time and they told us that the CCTVs were not in the suburbs. Now it has happened in the metropolis and it is apparent that the CCTVs in the metropolis are not working.
"Nigerians want the government to prove that the CCTVs are working and capable of helping to identifying the terrorists and bringing them to book," he said.
2 more victims die in hospital
Two more victims of the Wednesday bomb blast who were undergoing treatment have died at the National Hospital.
The minister of health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, stated this yesterday in Abuja when he visited the surviving victims of the bomb blast at the various hospitals in Abuja. He said that "one of the two victims that died at the hospital had 90 per cent burns which pose a great challenge in management".
However, the minister who was referring to the Senegalese who died at the National Hospital Wednesday night said that "the second person apart from the burns had multiple organ injuries and was operated upon on arrival at the hospital but he couldn't make it".
He also said that one other of the victims is in critical condition and, as such, he has been kept under the Intensive Care Unit.
As at the time of the Minister's visit to the National Hospital, there were six patients there. He also visited the Maitama District Hospital where a majority of the victims were initially taken to.
Chukwu said that only 13 of the victims remained in the hospital as most of them have either been discharged or referred to other hospitals.
He said that the level of healthcare delivery for the victims at the National Hospital is very satisfactory and that most major cases are brought to the hospital because of its facilities. He said that "the two people that were lost could have been lost anywhere in the world as their conditions were extremely difficult to treat".
Meanwhile, survivors of the bomb blast currently receiving treatment at the hospitals have continued to pour out their heart to government to continue supporting them in their condition.
Eyewitness accounts dispute police arrest claim
After Wednesday's deadly bomb blast at EMAB Plaza, Wuse II, Abuja, and the widely circulated claim by security agents of arrest of a suspect and killing of another fleeing the scene, accounts from some eyewitnesses who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend indicated that the claims might not be entirely true.
The eyewitness who does not want his name mentioned in print said that after the bomb went up, a few minutes before 4pm, exactly when Muslims' call for prayers was on, "there was pandemonium everywhere as people were lying on the ground; some were dead, wounded and trapped in cars".
"I saw others running as a far as their legs could carry them as thick smoke filled the skies; suddenly cars started exploding as more fire engulfed the area with people still inside some of the cars; I was confused as to what to do as I stayed flat on the floor.
At that moment, all I could hear and see were wailing for the first five minutes as emergency people from National Emergency management Agency (NEMA) were the first to show up. There was no policeman five to 10 minutes after the blast and so how come they were able to identify the bomber and arrest him in the first few minutes after the blast when there was total confusion all over the place?" the witness said.
Another eyewitness also told LEADERSHIP Weekend that policemen attached to some of the banks around Emab Plaza took to their heels as the bomb went off, questioning the credibility of the said arrest. "Maybe they did that to show Nigerians that they are working, as I do not see any truth in the claims by the security personnel," he stated. "When did the military arrive the scene? The focus of everyone after the blast was to first save one's head before looking for survivors; many cars were pushed from burning flames by spirited individuals who defied all odds to save people as well as cars from burning as the people from the fire service came 40 minutes after the blast.
"I didn't see the police arresting anyone on bike moments after the blast. The police that arrived minutes later... how come they were able to identify the bomber and arrest him or did they scan the CCTV camera before arriving at the scene of the blast?
"Let us see the footage recorded from the CCTV camera mounted around the place to be able to ascertain the claims of arrest by the police. I don't believe in this kind of public relations gimmicks of the police."
In a related development, indications emerged yesterday that despite having found the part of the engine bearing the engine number as well as the number plate of the vehicle used for the second Nyanya bomb blast, security authorities are yet to link it to the owner of the vehicle.
When the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) was contacted for information on whether the owner of the car used for the Nyanya bomb blast had been traced, a source in the commission's public enlightenment unit asked LEADERSHIP to provide him the number plate of the car and "if it is a new number plate, the FRSC has the capacity to trace the owner".
On the Emab Plaza attack, he also said it was too early to comment on the issue or know who the owner of the alleged motorbike used by the bomber was, as investigation was still ongoing and the commission was yet to get information on the incident.
Meanwhile, workers and business owners in Wuse II, Abuja, especially those on Aminu Kano Crescent where the bomb blast occurred, are yet to recover from the shock of the incident.
When LEADERSHIP visited the area yesterday, many shops in neighbouring plazas were still locked just as there were a few of hawkers around the usual points on the crescent where they used to stay to do their business.
At Omega Centre, a shopping plaza on Aminu Kano Crescent, it was observed that following the Emab Plaza bomb attack, the management had barred cars from going into the premises. The situation caused traffic snarl in the area as vehicles parked along the street.
A guard at the plaza told LEADERSHIP that it was closed for two days after the Emab incident and was only reopened yesterday but only a few shop owners were out for business.
The situation was however different at neighbouring K-City Plaza. Though vehicles were allowed into the premises, they were subjected to thorough search by the guards. However, the plaza was devoid of its usual bustle as it witnessed a low influx of shop owners and customers.
FCTA orders arrest of illegal users of power bikes
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to stem the menace of terrorism and other crimes, the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed has directed the FCT Police Commissioner to promptly arrest and prosecute any person illegally using Power Bikes and Motorcycles in the Federal Capital City, Abuja.
This directive, which was conveyed to the FCT Police Commissioner via a letter dated June 27, 2014 and signed by the FCT Permanent Secretary, Engr. John Chukwu, reminded him that the ban on the use of power bikes and motorcycles in the FCC was still in force.
Muhammad Sule, Chief Press Secretary to the FCT Minister, who stated this through a press statement said the reminder is underscored by the fact that one of the suspects in the recent bombing at the EMAB Plaza, Wuse II District, Abuja was seen on a Power Bike by Security Agents.
Agbo-Paul Augustine, Catherine Agbo, Chika Otuchikere, Ejike Ejike, Patience Ihejirika, Reuben Buhari, Winifred Ogbebo and Victor Okeke