News Column

ICT, Panacea to Terrorism, National Security

June 3, 2014

Emmanuel Okwuke

Senior IT. Correspondent In these days when everything has gone digital to the level that we now have Internet of Everything (IoE) many have questioned the readiness as well as the competence of Nigeria's security agencies to combat crime and insecurity in the country using the latest technology.

This is more so considering the fact that the security agencies seem very impotent, ill-equipped and ill-prepared when it comes to combating the deadly Islamic fundamentalist group, the Boko Haram, cases of kidnapping and other security challenges in the nation.

This was concern of Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, when recently, he challenged telecommunications operators on the use of technology in the fight against insecurity in the country.

Receiving officials of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) in Abuja, Nnaji said Nigeria should deploy all necessary technologies, especially telecommunications and Information Technology (IT) in the war against terrorism.

He said, the rising cases of insecurity and terror attacks in the country makes one wonder whether ICT was of any use in our polity despite the wealth of knowledge and expertise that Nigeria boasts of in this sector.

The Senator lamented that it was bewildering that the rising insecurity in the country occasioned by insurgencies erupting from different segments of the society, has been met with embarrassing quietness from the ICT sector.

He wonders too whether the sector is devoid of the appropriate solution or technology to fight in Nigeria, stressing: "Is it that this nation does not have competent personnel in the public and private sectors of our nation's ICT to counter insurgencies?"

He suggested that a committee comprising regulators and other relevant stakeholders in the ICT and security sectors in the country be set up to work out modalities for stakeholders' retreat where ideas can be shared on latest technologies that can be deployed to stem the tide of insecurity in Nigeria.

Nnaji also expressed the displeasure of the committee over the quality of service offered by telecommunications operators. According to him, the committee made it abundantly clear during the 2014 budget defence of the Ministry of Communications Technology that until there is seamless quality of service on all networks in the country, the committee will continue to ring the alarm bells in the face of poor quality of service that has refused to go away.

He noted that in addition to other attendant factors militating against quality of service delivery, the committee was aware of the deliberate practice by some individuals and organizations that install frequency jammers which have disruptive effect on actual radio communication with the sole intention of making it difficult to initiate and receive calls. Therefore, he called on the commission to intensify its intervention in this area.

Booby traps

Responding, Vice Chairman of the National Communications Commission (NCC), Eugene Juwah said quality of service had been affected by vandalism, even as he said that the National Security Adviser has approved the surveillance of telecommunication infrastructure by the Civil Defence Corps.

President, National Association Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS), Deolu Ogunbanjo in an interview with **Daily Independent,** said Nigerian telecommunication firms were doing business under very dire conditions, particularly in the north eastern geo-political zone. This, he said, has impacted their business negatively.

Also, Ogunbanjo noted that terrorists in these places do not want communications to take place, so anytime they want to strike; their first target is any Base Transceiver Station (BTS) near the place.

The NATCOMS helmsman lamented that some state governors were culpable in this matter as they have conspired with Federal Legislators from their states not to support the passage of the Critical Infrastructure Bill (CIB) before the National Assembly.

"This is because of the illegal tax and levies, they are imposing on telecoms operators".

The CIB when passed into law will make it an offence for anybody to willfully tamper with, damage, or destroy any telecom facility across the federation just as it is for power cables and installations.

Also speaking at a recent media parley in Lagos, Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications' Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo said acts of terrorism, and armed robbery and other acts of site closures make communication with security agents in these areas impossible whilst the criminals perpetrate their heinous crimes.

"Another great concern is the high likelihood of the failure of specialised security devices and applications occasioned by these shutdowns and the jeopardy to which intelligence information provided to security agencies will be placed," he said.

The ALTON Chairman maintained that: "these impacts are worsened by the fact that the telecoms infrastructure is a web of interconnected elements - failures on one service provider's network will often unduly burden or compromise service quality and availability on other networks, negatively affecting users on the other networks. In that regard, Nigeria risks being 'disconnected' from the rest of the world as the infrastructure providing communications services are shut down. It is therefore in the national interest that telecoms networks be viewed and protected as essential national infrastructure whose seamless operation must not be obstructed without lawful justification and authorisation," he concluded.

Cold attitude

Information technology practitioners' in the country have often complained bitterly that the government at Federal level has not been carrying them along in its activities. For instance the Nigerian Computer Society raised an alarm when delegates to the National Constitutional Conference was being constituted that there was no representative of the IT professionals at the conference.

All their cries may have fallen on deaf ears, following which the professionals under the auspices of the NCS wonder how they can work with a government which does not acknowledge their existence.

Nevertheless, President NCS, Prof. David Adewumi, says the group is ready to work with government to end insurgency in the country. He noted that the NCS recommends the immediate and appropriate use of ICT tools to tackle the insecurity in the land. "Federal Government must as a matter of priority establish a National Biometric Database Programme.

"Furthermore, other ICT devices - Surveillance cameras, Social Network analysis, Biometry surveillance Data mining, Satellite Imagery, Internet Protocol (IP) devices should be employed professionally to checkmate insecurity in our dear country," the NCS helmsman concluded.

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: AllAfrica

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