By Mustapha Jamal
Solutions to certain problems are sometimes so obvious we forget they are there. And by the time people get to solving them they wonder why they never thought of it at all. That is the feeling you come off with after listening to Oladapo Ogundipe a Software Engineer.
Even President Muhammadu Buhari himself declared that “we cannot continue like this,” referencing the recent abduction and release of 333/ 334 students of Government Science Secondary School Kankara in Katsina state. The students were surprised with a presidential visit soon after they were freed. Encouraging them to concentrate on their studies and put the abduction behind them, PMB used the opportunity to express his grave concern about security in a country under his watch.
Surprise raids and abductions like the GSSS can be prevented, Ogundipe has said, if there was any such thing as aerial surveillance. Drones are expensive, have short flight time, easily affected by weather and prone to accident. But there are readily available and far inexpensive facilities on the ground. Mounting cameras on telecommunications masts, according to Ogundipe, is as good as covering the ground from above the same way drones do.
His forte is telecoms and video security, starting in 1997 after his graduate studies in Software Engineering and Managerial Economics.
Ogundipe is the Chief Executive Officer of Airwired Nigeria Ltd. The mission of the company formed in 2013 is to, “advance video security and deliver business outcomes,” through partnerships with “creators of trusted powerful video security solutions, intelligent cameras, video management software, storage and access control solutions that provide customer safety and protection.”
Some companies and individuals have benefitted and are still benefitting from services provided by Airwired. Ogundipe showed us a video along Marina in Lagos, something like a bird’s eye view from above. You could see the entire aerial view from marina and even zoom further beyond up to some parts of Apapa across the lagoon. How did he do it? By installing a IR Pan Tilt 45X Zoom (PTZ) 2MP with video analytics camera on one of the telecommunications masts on Marina.
For him, the infrastructure already exists. “All over the country we have telecoms masts which are completely standalone, fully operational with constant power and internet connectivity available,” Ogundipe explains. “The implementations can only be limited by our imagination. A good way forward is for the government to ride on the back of this infrastructure created by telecoms operators, co-locate and pay rent for the space and mount very long range 8 mega pixel PTZ cameras which have at least five years warranty and with long range IR which is at least three times the distance of the camera. If you create a map with the locations of the masts highlighted it will be able to predict a general coverage of a wide landmass. Imagine a kidnap occurs in a part of the country, it will be possible for the security agencies to predict the direction of the kidnappers based on CCTV footage which will be covered by cameras placed on the masts and they can now organize a manhunt based on information provided by the embedded cameras.”
More than anything else, Ogundipe says, is using this available technology as a deterrent, to deter potential criminals or even kidnappers. If some of the telecommunications masts near GSSS were fitted with cameras, for instance, it is doubtful if the abductors would have contemplated ever going there. Except in some rare cases, criminals don’t operate where they know they are being watched in real time.
According to the security expert, most companies and individuals install CCTV “as a deterrent for prevention and intervention because people know they are being monitored by operators in real time, and also to be able to record events as they occur for future playback and post-incident investigation.” The implementations are vast depending on the needs of the company or customer. An automobile dealer, for example, “can install license plate recognition cameras to read license plate numbers of vehicles at its entrance points to search for when a vehicle entered or left the premises” while “a bank in Marina may install facial recognition cameras at its entrance points and load all faces of security personnel, customers and staff into system database with their names and ID numbers. When they walk past they will be identified. All organizations can install perimeter cameras so that if anyone jumps over an alarm will be triggered and an operator will take over and commence investigations immediately. These cameras are able to do all sorts of things including to draw a line around an area and to demarcate as a no-go-area for after hours when nobody will be allowed including the security guards who will use specified walkway and if anyone enters those zones the cameras will raise an alarm and the Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) operator will take over immediately. Once we do this and constantly strive to improve both our analytical capabilities and our ability to cover wider areas in real time we should be competitive enough.”
As any intelligence officer will tell you, nothing beats electronic or aerial surveillance for companies and countries as far as internal and external security is concerned. The Americans found this out long ago. On October 14 1962, a military officer, Major Richard Hersey, piloting a U-2 spy plane at a high altitude photographed Soviet SS-4 medium range missiles being assembled in Cuba. Cuba is the US’s coastal cousin, only 1241.77 nautical miles away. At the time, under Fidel Castro’s socialist government, Cuba had close ties to the Soviet Union, America’s chief nemesis during the Cold War.
Informed about the secret deployment of the missiles, President John F Kennedy immediately confronted his Soviet counterpart, Nikita Kruschev, with the evidence. At first, Kruschev denied it but recanted afterward and thus began the dismantling of the missiles. Thus was humanity saved from a possible World War 111.
Anyone can imagine what might have been if the Americans were caught out of the loop, especially if the Soviets decided to launch an attack first.
Nigeria is not fighting a conventional war with any country today but the security situation calls for urgent and revolutionary/ innovative measures because, as PMB himself has said, “we cannot continue like this.” Like drones, spy planes are expensive. But there are already existing facilities that can perform the same function as spy planes without fear of discovery or being shot down and then sparking off a diplomatic row.
That is why Ogundipe’s suggestions needs looking into. The “scale and penetration of CCTV services countrywide,” he says, is a game changer. A possible reason why that has not happened here in Nigeria
“is the emphasis on pricing instead of quality as determinant of our purchase. You see people still buy old and unsecured technology probably because it’s cheaper. You know we do not manufacture these equipment here and we have to import. The fluctuations of the global currency markets affects our purchasing power and the lack of a manufacturing base to make some of these products locally means we have to play catch up.”
Catching up with what is immediately available is Ogundipe’s concern. He even suggests the possibility of covering blind spots, areas where there “will be traffic and other situational preventative CCTV operating which can be coordinated. We would need to include the control room and networking components to complete the system.”
Besides its primary function of deterring criminals, Ogundipe says, it will also “help in the construction of an identity database of criminals as the fact that it records images means that these same images can be of value to the security agencies.”
But most important of all, according to the security expert, is that with your company or country secured through electronic surveillance, you can focus on other important issues. How true! Right now, nothing keeps PMB more apprehensive more than the worsening security situation in a country he has ruled for five-plus years. Adequate security, Ogundipe insists, allows “the organisation to focus on growth and their jobs knowing that while nothing is perfect they have done their best in terms of security and surveillance.”