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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Bomb blast: Ekuwem tasks FG on ICT deployment

Remmy Nweke:

The Executive Vice Chairman of Teledom Group International, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem has said that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) would make a great difference in the fight against bomb-blast and other insecurity in the country.

Speaking recently in Lagos, Ekuwem who is the immediate past president of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said Nigerians must shun individualism in the effort to achieve national security.

He urged the federal government to appreciate the ability of ICT in aiding security and forestalling criminal activities.

“We must not jeopardize the security of our country for pecuniary reasons,” he warned.

Decrying the delays in the commencement of the Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) card registration in the country, Ekuwem said the situation is embarrassing and painful.

“It shows that we do not fully understand the danger non- registration of SIM cards poses to our national and individual security,” he said, stressing that security affects all including individuals, governments, institutions, organizations and companies alike.

He noted that though the approval of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) budget for the exercise took a melodramatic turn in the National Assembly, Nigerians must be able to uniquely match every SIM card in the mobile telecom networks to an individual be it a person or company.

“We are now able to crisscross the cyberspace from cellular space to the web and from the web to the cellular space,” he said, noting that the security implication of not being proactive at this time is worrisome.

Ekuwem who was the former president of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), pointed out that whenever and wherever security is of essence there must necessarily be a reduction in speed.

“Have we ever walked casually into an aircraft to fly without being security-checked: our checked-in luggage, our carry-on luggage and our personal checks with metal detectors along with all the unsolicited massage by men and women on duty? Do we drive at high speed over speed bumps or zebra crossings? Do we not slow down or stop at check-points manned by the police or soldiers or customs, Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) and so on?

In all these, he said, speeds are reduced for the good of all, wondering why activities in the telecom industry should be an exception?

“If having to wait for a few minutes to have your essential personal data captured before you are given a new SIM card will slow down business somewhat, so be it. Thank God all that is history now,” he said.

Ekuwem whose firm, Technology Development Company (TDC) Limited, deals on usage of ICT for security purposes, has advised the federal government led by President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that they deploy advanced detectors to curb the rising wave of insecurity especially bomb attacks.

He noted that the incessant bomb-blast has become a thing of concern to well-meaning Nigerians and especially those who know there is much technology can do to alleviate the situation.

He, however, blamed the government for not being proactive over security matters in the country. “The government’s inability to sufficiently appreciate the urgent need to deploy advanced technologies that could enhance effective security surveillance, monitoring and policing across the nation, is a clog on the wheel of progress of this country,” he said.

Further decrying the recent bomb blast that rocked Abuja on the eve of 2010 Christmas and New Year 2011, Ekuwem said it’s shameful, given that the October 1 bombing in Abuja was enough warning for the government to know that this is not a mere threat, but something that needs urgent actions.

Ekuwem said the fact that the security agencies could not detect the movement of the bomb
devices into Jos and Abuja are indications that much still needed to be done to improve security surveillance, monitoring and policing operations in the country.

“The government should appreciate the enormous power of ICT and leverage on it for national security operations,” he said, emphasising that there are modern technologies like Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS), with the ability to scan every piece of cargo, container, truck and vehicles that enters Nigeria through the seaports, airports and inland border posts.

“They can capture the number plates, biometrics of the driver as well as photographs and video clips of each port/border crossing into Nigeria by any cargo, container, truck, tanker or vehicle.
They can scan on specific highways, roads, check-points, inland waterways as well as the contents of cars, trucks, tankers, boats and ferries as the case may be,” Ekuwem said.

He explained that the scanned bulk material data, the image and video could be monitored in-situ, remotely with the same outputs, which could be stored locally and remotely while stored data, could be accessed remotely on a password-restricted basis.

He maintained that if such security surveillance and monitoring facilities were installed in Abuja and other major cities prior to the latest incident, the security operatives would have been able to detect, intercept the bomb and apprehend the criminals.

According to him, there are fixed and mobile scanning devices that could be installed at strategic locations to monitor vehicles and persons with a view to checking the movement of arms and ammunitions including all sorts of dangerous weapons.

Dr. Ekuwem pointed out that mobile VACIS scanning systems would patrol streets and parking lots and detect bombs, explosives, arms, ammunitions and weapons hidden or welded inside the body or chasis of parked vehicles.

He advised security agencies in the country to take advantage of advanced security-based technologies ranging from intrusion sensing, detection, national identity data capture and management, biometrics data capture and storage, password-restricted access to stored data for both local and remote access, village-wide, town-wide, city-wide, state-wide and nation-wide surveillance (video with bi-directional audio) with local/in-situ, distributed and central/national storage/archiving with password-restricted access as well as with date-and-time-specific playback devices for criminal investigations.

Nigeria’s ICT industry, he said, has the capability to help the nation check the growing insecurity by establishing criminal databases with exciting agency-specific graphical user interfaces for use by law enforcement agencies.

Further, Ekuwem said the government has no reason to appear helpless at this time of serious national security crisis when there is robust ICT sector that could be relied upon for effective preventive remedies.

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