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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Policing beyond SIM cards

Features of the week:

The need to really computerize the Nigeria Police beyond the value added by the availability of Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards has continued to be of concern, writes REMMY NWEKE.

DATELINE was Lagos State, May, Friday 19, and venue was the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Center Onikan, where the just-concluded Computer, Telecommunication and Office Equipment (CTO-06), exhibition and conferences was held.

The event, which is the sixth in the series, is the annual exhibition and conferences organized by the Commercial Section, United States Consulate, Lagos. This year’s theme was “Leveraging Franchise for Business Growth and National Development.”

Road to CTO-06

Going to this year’s CTO from the Ikeja axis of Lagos State was part of the day’s schedule, according to Mr. Okon Idah, a middle class Information and Communication Technology (ICT) enthusiast.

Having boarded a commercial bus from the popular Allen Roundabout, his mission was to be at MUSON Center and listen to the likes of chief executive, Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia, Chief executive, Teledom Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, who also is the president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), as well as the chief executive of Spectracomm and Consultant COREMAP, Mr. Mark Schwartz, among others, during the special section on “Students and Aspiring Enterpreneurs”.

One remarkable thing that got Mr. Idah’s attention penultimate Friday was that as soon as the bus he boarded passed 7Up Junction, near the demolished toll-gate, a Police motorbike was blocking a heavy-duty truck on the highway, which nearly crushed the motorcyclist and exposed him to further crush by other vehicles on the Oworoshoki Expressway.

This follows that during the interception the truck had with the bike, a senior Police officer jumped on to the truck-door where he hanged for over 15 minutes and because the truck was not engaged in high-speed from Ojota to under-bridge, about a hundred meters from the Oworoshoki bus stop where the officer eventually got tired, obviously because the driver did not allow him entrance having locked the door and wind-up the windscreen round-up.

LASTMA antics

Then at Oworoshoki bus stop where Mr. Idah’s bus stopped, for a passenger to alight, a Molue, a long commuter bus in Lagos, soon zoomed passed with shouts and screams from the passengers, as the driver tried to dodge hitting other vehicles while heading with speed towards the third mainland bridge, which is about 400 meters ahead and definitely coming from Oshodi to CMS via Obalende in the Island part of the state.

Behind the Molue was a Toyota Hiace bus painted in commercial bus colour of yellow, occupied by a task force team in Police uniforms and some members of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

Eventually at Adeniji Adele link road, the Molue driver managed to stop for the passengers to alight. Some who were caught in the web of the Molue driver took time to kneel by the roadside to give thanks to God for saving them. Then Mr. Idah’s bus had to convey some of these people to their final destination, including two students on their way to CTO-06.

Our stories by students …

According to the students from a high school in Oshodi, names withheld, they boarded the Molue with the hope of catching on the session on ‘Students and Aspiring Entrepreneurs’ having read about the event at CTO the previous day at the Free Readers stand near the school at Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.

But no sooner had they sat in the bus, the conductor began to ask the driver hurriedly to move, despite being aware that two of this task force members; a Police and LASTMA officials, had jumped into the bus, signaling an arrest, yet the driver refused to stop.

They said that most of the time the “Police was dragging the vehicle steering with the driver as they approach third Mainland bridge.”

For Mr. Idah, who was pondering over the two experiences aloud, some unanswered questions abound including why was the senior Police officer hanging out on a truck along the expressway and why was Policeman whose duty is to save lives drag the steering with a Molue driver.

Co-occupant of Idah’s bus, Mrs. Iyabo Oni who showed interest in the story was not excited at all as she exclaimed, “Can you imagine a police officer who ordinarily should be saving lives, now putting it at danger!” Her worries was because she knew that Molue in Lagos do not carry less than 50 passengers including those standing close to each other.

She noted that the Police needs re-orientation generally and wondered what hope for Nigerian children who are regularly showing interest in ICT, when they are not safe in the hands of Nigeria Police, let alone having their businesses conceptualized and managed with Police harassment on daily basis.

Policing without data

Wordnet, an online educational portal of Cognitive Science Laboratory, Princeton University, United States, identified data as a collection of facts from which conclusions may be drawn; ‘statistical data’.” This, it says is an item of factual information derived from measurement or research.

Bearing in mind the importance of data in today’s Policing, Mr. Idah on the other hand, posited that in the first instance, if the nation’s population data is computerized such as vehicle and licensing registrations, the task force may not have to chase the Molue and the officer hanging out along the expressway should not have arise.

He underscored that in a computerized data situation, what the Police needed to do was simply to book the drivers for whatever offences they may have committed like they do now in even South Africa.

And if the situation still did not satisfy the Police, they would use a good communication network system to reach out to other Police divisions and the culprit would be rounded up in no time.

He also said that if not for corrupt tendencies why should the officer take such a risk despite the fact that the driver refused to stop for booking initially.

Essential point here, he said, is that the Nigeria Police will do better if well-equipped with relevant communication gadgets and in no distant time, the likes of unrepentant truck and Molue drivers, will have no choice than to stop knowing fully well that as long as they are in this country, they would be fished out and arrested.

Conversely …

Maybe as posited by one of the students, that since the Nigeria Police is a contradiction of itself, the Nigeria Police Commission should consider ‘outsourcing’ some of its operations if not total ‘franchise’ to capable and trusted organizations to manage, but that will not be without constant training and retraining of men and women in the Police force.

Equally, have you considered the time wasted by Police officers in manually checking papers both relevant and irrelevant to their immediate search, especially on vehicle particulars, a situation ICT experts would say is achieved with a click of the mouse by the seconds if a Police team has a well-equipped communication vehicle with adequate computerized system.

Therefore, computerizing the Nigeria police must go beyond availability of Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) for Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), of which most of the officers do not have credit all the time, together with rickety vehicles or having an updated website.

The main question now is when shall Nigerian Police be fully computerized? An aggressive effort that starts now can only give indication that the answer is in the near future, only if we begin now without forgetting what a country like Ghana is doing with her Police.


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