From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Police Broadcasting Service (NPBS), Edirin Jerry Wesley, has said that apart from enhancing the security of the country, the soon to be commissioned NPBS would also rebrand the image of the Nigeria Police Force.
Wesley, in this interview on the forthcoming commissioning of the NPBS, said in establishing the NPBS, he took into consideration, the image of the Nigeria Police.
The Nigeria Police Broadcasting Service was billed for commissioning on November 28, 2017. What went wrong?
We cancelled it because the government had a lot of programmes that occupied that date. So, it was shifted to early this year.
When exactly are we looking at?
We are looking at February and March.
Is the commissioning taking place in Abuja or Lagos?
Have you completed the installation process of the broadcasting equipment?
The equipment have started arriving Lagos and Abuja from the United Kingdom since October last year.
Are you saying there is hope that the installation process would be completed before the commissioning date?
Whatever date we are going to launch, definitely, they would have been installed and test-run.
And transmission would begin immediately?
How was the NPBS idea conceived?
Having lived in Europe for about 25 years, the idea was conceived in 2010, but after doing my feasibility study on the security challenges in the country, I presented it to the Nigeria Police Force management in 2012. The NPBS is currently receiving wide acceptability both in Nigeria and outside the country. For instance, after my interview with Fox News in the United States, we have had partnership with 228 radio stations in the United States and Canada.
Where precisely did you live?
I lived in the United Kingdom. So, there were lot of bombings in Adamawa, Maiduguri, Yobe and other parts of the country and there were also crises in the Niger Delta. And I decided that one of the best ways to nip the ugly situation in the bud, to throw a bomb that could go to any distance, was through the media. And with that, I came up with the idea of educating the society through the media. It is a platform for education, health and security, but security is the main issue. So, we are thinking of running a platform in which over 78 percent of it is going to be purely in security and trying to make people know their right as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and as well, for the police to have a voice of their own to counter any false rumour, false impression in the society and make the country a safer country and effective information and communication policing.
So, you conceived the idea to achieve maximum security for the country?
That is right. NPBS is going to be giving firsthand information on security matters across the nation and also to build up confidence of Nigerians home and abroad, including foreign investors.
Apart from that, what else did you set out to achieve?
My focus is all on security because if the environment is secured, every other thing follows. For instance, if there is security of lives and property, foreign investors would be willing to invest in the country.
In conceiving the idea of NPBS, did you also put into consideration, the image of the police?
I thought about the image of the police because you have to rebrand the image of the police. And how do you rebrand the image of the police? It is by bringing the community and the police together. We have to bridge the gap; we have to build the trust. For the police, see something, say something, have a voice. If the public have a voice and the police know their right, and the public know their right, it makes everybody to work together perfectly because you can see something and say oh, call the police.
I remember about 17 years ago, I went to Germany and my cousin drove down to see me and we were talking. And just because we were both blacks and we were just laughing, somebody who was at the window, an old woman, saw us and within the next couple of minutes, we saw the German policemen and they were asking us about our documents, they wanted to know why we were there and they wanted to know what we were doing in the country. That is effective policing. They see something and say something. We are all Nigerians, we have to do this great work together in building up our nation both rich and poor, Christians, Muslims and others; North, East, West and South of the country.
Specifically, what does the NPBS entail?
It is about media: television just like you have television about security matters; online media and as well, radio station where local languages are spoken and emergency command control and communication center.
What is their usefulness?
The usefulness of the television is about people watching the television and seeing what is going on. For example, you want to travel and you want to see what is happening if you have to travel between Abuja and Kogi State or Abuja and Kano. So, if you watch the television, you should be able to know the security situation between Abuja and Kogi State, whether the road is free or not. And secondly, if there is kidnapping happening on the road, you have to educate people with tips about kidnapping. Also, if there is accident as a result of armed robbery in any of the highways, you can use it as a flash point on the television for those travelling along that route to their destination to be aware of what is happening. That is about the television, educating people about all sectors of security. The radio station is about educating people in local languages. For instance, look at what happened in Yola recently. The problem was that there was no avenue of contacting the police at the beginning of the incident. So, we have been working with the Nigerian Communications Commission and have agreed to issue the 112 emergency command control response number where you call. Whether you have money on your phone or not, just dial that number and it will ring straight at the headquarters where we set up the emergency command control center. That takes the call and pushes it back to the state; the state command dispatches it to the nearest divisional police officer who would in turn send the men of the Nigeria Police to the crime scene. The same goes with the online where information are passed across for easy access and dissemination.
What preparations have you made in terms of power supply?
When you talk of power supply, don’t forget it can be sourced from different angles. There is the renewable energy, and coming from the West, I don’t think there is going to be power problem.
Is this a public-private-partnership?
It is a public-private-partnership with the Nigeria Police.
In terms of service delivery, are you targeting the entire country or some parts?
It is a national stuff in the 36 states and Abuja. We want to make sure we get it right in Nigeria before moving to other African countries.
Have you reached out to the various states of the federation?
We had a presentation with the Nigerian Governors Forum.
How was their response?
It was good. Fantastic! We had people like His Excellency, Governor Rochas Okorocha who said gone are the days police go around with guns, that media is the tool. We also have people like His Excellency, Governor Nasir el-Rufai who also embraced it. The governors were impressed after the presentation between the NPBS, the forum and the Inspector General of Police at the Presidential Villa. The governors were pleased and were concerned about the sustainability of the project. They were pleased because it is a private partnership. We have all the governors who see their vision in line with what we are doing and want to be part of it. We had a presentation with Local Content; we had a presentation with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and a lot of other organizations who want to be part of it.
Sceptics would still push the idea that how would the commissioning of NPBS assist our security situation in the country. What response do you have for such persons?
Like I said, it is all about educating the society; real time information and as well, an input in bringing investors because it is going to be a platform where every investor is going to look at.
Are you saying this would revolutionalise the Nigerian security apparatus?
Definitely! It is going to be a checkpoint as well for the police. It is not just for the benefit of the populace. The police have to be checked as well because when you see something, say something and you call the media. Don’t forget there are smart phones which you can use to video whatever that is going on either on the highway or within your environment and pass it across.
So, it is going to be both ways?
It is going to be both ways checkpoints.
No hiding place for the police any longer?
There is no hiding place for the police, no hiding place for the public.
How about allegations of police taking bribes on the highways or within the local community?
A journey of a thousand miles starts one day. Once the awareness is created, the police itself as a body or as an organization, would start checking itself because if they know that somebody is going to video something and send it to the NPBS and NPBS is going to establish it by broadcasting it to the nation, I am sure nobody wants to get his name damaged. So, with that, I think the police will be at the point of being alert. If it is a habit that has been happening, it is going to change.
How about accidents on the highways?
The emergency command control center is going to be purely handled by the police and it will take care of that.
Will this also check human rights violation?
It is part of our see something, say something.
Who are those to man the NPBS?
We have highly educated staff from other agencies that are going to join us. For instance, we have ex-BBC staff, CNN and from foreign countries. But majority of our staff would be Nigerians.
So, they are not all going to be police officers?
Not at all! But we are going to be working with them and there would be training for them because after sometime, you would be seeing a policeman or a policewoman in front of the camera as news caster.
Will the Nigeria Police fully take over NPBS someday?
Yes. It is going to be after a period of 20 years.
How would NPBS impact on elections in the country?
It is going to be thorough policing of the nation through effective information communication, saving lives and property and doing the right thing, creating awareness for people to know that someone is watching like a watchdog because you see something and say something. Through the technology being installed, the applications on peoples’ phones and the drones, issues of election mismanagement would be a thing of the past with timely information.