Nigeria and challenge of 3 digit emergency number

BY MAYOWA MICHAEL ADELEYE 9-1-1 is an emergency telephone number used in the United States, Canada, as well as in some Latin American countries – for example, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Paraguay. In many countries, the public telephone network (mobile phones and landline phone) has a 3 digits emergency telephone number (sometimes known as the universal emergency telephone number or the emergency services number) that allows a caller to contact emergency services for assistance. The emergency number differs from country to country; it is typically a three-digit number so that it can be easily remembered and dialed quickly. In the European Union and selected other countries “112” has been introduced as a common emergency call number, and as the GSM standard it is now a well known mobile telephone emergency number around the globe alongside the North American “911”. An emergency telephone number call may be answered by either a telephone operator or an emergency service dispatcher. The location and nature of the emergency (police, military, fire, medical etc) is then determined. If the call has been answered by a telephone operator, they then connect the call to the appropriate emergency service, who then dispatches the appropriate help. In the case of multiple services being needed on a call, the most urgent need must be determined, with other services being called in as needed. An emergency service can identify the telephone number that a call has been placed from. The caller’s address and therefore their location will be identified. This is often specifically mandated in a country’s legislation.

The first emergency number system to be deployed anywhere in the world was in London on 1 July 1937 (78 years ago) using the number 999, and this was later extended to cover the entire country. When 999 was dialled, a buzzer sounded and a red light flashed in the exchange to attract an operator’s attention. Southern California Telephone Co. began using 116 as an emergency line for Los Angeles, California in 1946.

The emergency number 999 was adopted in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1959 at the urging of Stephen Juba, mayor of Winnipeg at the time. The city changed the number to 911 in 1972, in order to be consistent with the newly adopted U.S. emergency number. The first 911 emergency phone systems went into use in Haleyville, Alabama in 1968. Why is it that in 2015, Nigeria is yet to have a National Emergency telephone number from Mobile Phones that every Nigerians know? In May 2015, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC declared that the Active Mobile Telephone lines in the nation’s telecommunications industry in Nigeria stood at 146,561,744 from the Active Mobile Telephone lines in Nigeria were 145,476,326 for the month of April 2015. The figure increased by 1,085,418 in May 2015, the NCC said. According to the data, 144,386,841 of the 146,561,744 active numbers subscribe to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network services. Very Good! But what role is the NCC playing to ensure that all the licensed mobile phone operators in Nigeria have 3 Digits Emergency Dialing Access for all the cellphones in Nigeria?

It’s very obvious that Boko Haram has changed tactic from taking over towns and territories to the use of solo female suicide bomber tactics and the Nigeria Military and Security Agencies must change their tactics. Recently, a10 years girl detonated Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) at the main entrance of the Sunday market in Damaturu, Yobe State that left 15 people died while 47 others injured. In fact, five units of undetonated IED were recovered from the scene of the blast.

All we heard was that the State Commissioner of Police and Governor of Yobe State cautioned people to be mindful of people carrying bags, as the militants had resorted to using bags in conveying their explosive devices and to report any suspicious people to the appropriate authority! How? Where? To Who? Through Which 3 Digits Emergency Number? I hereby urge the Executive Government, Legislative Arm of Government, the NCC, all the Telecommunication providers in Nigeria together with the security forces; Military, Police, DSS, and the newly appointed Service Chief for Military Intelligence to swiftly work together to make sure Nigerians have a functional three-digit emergency phone dialing access which every Nigerians can remember and dial from their cellphones to connect to either police or military to report any suspicion.

Legislation can be passed or amended to force all telephone operators in Nigeria to allow Nigerians have the 3-digits emergency numbers on every cellphones in Nigeria whether or not the phone has credit! If Nigeria cannot identify knowledgeable technological IT companies that can make this a reality with a reasonable time-frame, there is nothing wrong if Nigeria Government could seek experts from North America or Europe.

Even if we have to start from the North East Nigeria States, it will be very practical before such facilities could spread nationwide. Nigerians will step up their surveillance and our people will remain very vigilant about happenings in their areas, and report any suspicious persons or movements to the appropriate channels as soon as possible.

Mayowa Michael Adeleye writes from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

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