By Fauzuddeen Mahmoud, B. Sc, M. Sc MahmudFauzee@gmail.com
For the very first time in our nascent history, we’ve got CCTVs, on a truly organized scale in Gusau. How stupefying! But before i fully unwrap my own perspective, I’d love to make some technical clarifications. By now, its cheeky for me me to say that almost everyone knows what CCTV means. So i should be forgiven for “skedaddling” away from its definition. The CCTVs installed in the metropolis fall into the category of wireless security cameras, sub-category: Digital wireless CCTVs. They are so termed due to the fact that they transmit video and audio signals to a wireless receiver through a broadband: Either a Wi-Fi or a 3G/4G cellular network. The absence of the long, cumbersome wiring for either power (they utilize solar power in the daytime, and the potential energy stored in the batteries hidden underneath at night) or transmission makes them truly wireless and a notch above the analog ones.
In this piece, I’ll be making a logical argument (devoid of any political bias) on whether or not the project stokes a conflict between reality (Insecurity, Dwindling Revenues…) and necessity.
Ever since Gusau woke up to a scene akin to that from a sci-fi movie where huge identical masts adorned with cameras, each dedicated to a cardinal point were erected almost about everywhere, mouths have refused to be shushed. In fact, it has polarized views across the state. Some are chanting Hurrahs, others, not so buoyed. Without an iota of doubt, this CCTV Project is a colossus: An engineering marvel and a thing of beauty – One that has the potential to be our prelude to a new dawn. But at what cost?
The reason apologists of this project cling to as justification is that it’d help curb the insecurity that has got the state in its tight, fierce grip – a decent reason but not one that is totally exempted from a legit debate.
Can it help keep us more secure?
Generally, CCTVs are for security surveillance and have been proved the world over, to be effective in combating crimes. But it all depends on the surveillance network. The wider the network ( the number of CCTVs at any given space), the better the chances of them being effective in monitoring and tracking crimes/criminals. You can’t expect a drastic reduction in crimes based on a handful of CCTVs fixed at some “strategic locations”. At this juncture, I’d love to explain a technical term: OPTICAL RANGE. this term is used to refer to the range of sight of the cameras. In other words, it is the distance at which the visibility/image clarity of a camera is maintained. The farther one goes away from the CCTv, the lower the image quality. Most CCTVs don’t pass the 200m range and visibility is also affected by obstructions (road bends, tall buildings/structures). This is a huge limitation. For example, the mast at Unguwar Gwaza roundabout is technically useless. All the four cameras mounted on it points to roads that are extremely bent and thus, the optical range is shorter.
In contemporary Zamfara where some remote regions are “kingdoms of bandits”, it is only fair to propose to the proponents and apologists of this project to fix them in those hotspots. If truly the justification for the project is tackling insecurity, then I wholly believe prioritizing Gusau – a peaceful metro- over those hotspots is an usurpation of their rights to peace.
Some might also grumble about the size of the security budget. But for me, there’s no amount too much for security if truly the financial buoyancy is there. A key example is the United State of America. Its security budget is bigger than those of China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil combined and most of the aforementioned countries are her allies. So it’s totally fine provided the funds are readily available and won’t constitute a strain to the treasury.
Is it a necessity?
For me No! Its never a necessity. The insecurity we’re bedeviled by is one with multiple foci and if truly the government is interested in mounting a robust surveillance, our borders must be first on the checklist, and not the capital. Second on the list must be the areas of conflict but i bet they cannot mount these CCTVs there due to a myriad of challenges. Firstly, the security of the engineers to do the fixing cannot be guaranteed. Secondly, they’d be vandalized either by bandits or heavy shelling by the Nigerian Airforce Combat helicopters the moment they’re fixed. So, its farcical for one to think that Gusau is just the first from the lot and as such, I don’t believe they’d be mounted everywhere across the state.
Is it sustainable?
In a democracy, change is truly effected through consolidation. Without sustainability, huge projects awash with taxpayers’ money get abandoned and left to deteriorate under the combined effect of the wind, rain and sun. With this CCTV project, I harbor huge concerns. Firstly, it is wirelessly connected to a broadband (cellular network) for data transmission. For how long can we continue to pay huge broadband charges for transmission of data that probably won’t ever be used? There’s also the issue of overall maintenance: From replacing the worn out batteries to fixing faulty solar panels/cameras. How long can our fragile economy that depends 73.04% on the federal allocation, continue to fund a capital intensive recurrent burden?
I have little hope that a state that cannot maintain its traffic and streetlights lights respectively, can maintain this huge economic burden.
This project is one that has a huge potential but at the moment, its not a necessity and it betrays the harsh reality on ground. A state that’s bottom third on poverty index and bottom second on literacy index should have even bigger priorities than this. I know the views I expressed elaborately in this piece will no doubt irk some and please some. However, they are my personal opinion and should be respected. I’m ever ready to engage in a constructive dialogue.