HB 32 : Emergency Communications Bill, 2015

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Sponsor:

Hon. Abonta Uzoma Nkem

Bill Status: Awaiting Committee Report

  • First Reading: 13/08/2015
  • Second Reading: 27/10/2015
  • Committee Referred To: Committee of the Whole
  • Consolidated with:
  • Date Reported out of Committee:
  • Third Reading:

Bill Analysis:

SHORT TITLE

Emergency Communication Bill, 2015

OBJECTIVE OF THE BILL

The objectives of the Bill are to:

  • Enhance the nation’s internal security and capacity to manage disaster and emergencies through the provision of emergency communication facilities to enable citizen-activated response to emergencies;
  • Establish public safety answering centers throughout the Federation

NUMBER OF CLAUSES/PARTS

The Bill has 26 clauses including interpretation and citation; and a schedule.

APPLICATION

The Bill shall apply to the provision and use of emergency communications services in whole or in part within Nigeria or on a ship or aircraft registered in Nigeria

EXPECTATIONS OF THE BILL

The Bill creates and provides for a reliable framework for emergency communication in Nigeria, specifically to: -

  • Promote the implementation of National Emergency or policy as may from time to time be made, modified and amended;
  • Ensure the implementation and co-ordination of emergency communication for the overall purpose of response activation;
  • Ensure the deployment of emergency communications facilities throughout the Federation;
  • Provide for mandatory but unified emergency communication services by telecommunication operators in Nigeria;
  • Provide for adequate funding of emergency communication services through certain proportion of telecommunication bills collectible throughout the Federation as well as government subvention;
  • Provide for the establishment of public safety answering centers;
  • Provide appropriate penalties for offences related to the principle and practice of emergency communication and swift response mechanism and;
  • Provide for the implementation of a swift response mechanism for the purpose of management of emergencies.

IMPLICATIONS OF THE BILL

If the Bill is passed:

  1. There shall be established a universal Emergency Code designated by “911”, which shall be the code through which all emergency communication shall be assessed;
  2. It shall be mandatory for every telecommunications operator in Nigeria to provide, deploy and maintain such facilities and service that will encourage emergency communication from its network.

GENERAL PROVISIONS OF THE BILL

1. Emergency Communication Fund (“the Fund): -

A fund to be known as Emergency Communication Fund into which income accruing from emergency communication charges, donations, subventions, interests and capital increase pursuant to this Bill (when it becomes law) shall be established (Clause 5).

The proceeds may from time to time be applied to:

  • procurement, construction and expansion of emergency communication facilities, structures and infrastructures throughout the federation;
  • such services or projects which it may consider expedient in the due administration of this Bill (when it becomes law)

2.   Emergency Communication: -

Clause 6 provides that the Nigerian Communications Commission (“the Commission”) shall make regulations prescribing emergency communication charges, which shall be collectible on all telephone calls made within the federation other than emergency calls.

The emergency communication charges shall not be more than 2% of call charges. It shall be mandatory for all telecommunication operators in Nigeria to ensure due mobilization and appropriate remittal into the Fund, all monies generated as emergency communication charges.

3.    Accounts, Audit and Annual Estimates: -

The Commission shall keep proper records and accounts, and shall have a statement of accounts relating to the last preceding year certified and audited by the auditors appointed by the Commission from the list supplied by the Auditor-General of the Federation (Clause 8).

The Commission shall not later than September 30 of each year, submit to the President, accounts and an estimate of its income and expenditure during the succeeding year in respect of the provisions of this Bill (Clause 7).

4.  Investments: -

The Commission may subject to the provisions of this Bill (when it becomes law) and conditions of any trust created in respect of any property, invest all or any of its fund pursuant to this Bill (when it becomes law), in any security prescribed by the Trustee Investment Act or any other securities that may be approved by the President.

5.   Public Safety Answering Centers: -

There shall be established in the capital city of each State of the federation and the FCT, Public Safety Answering Centers (“the Center”) or as may be reasonably practicable provided that no one facility will be deemed to be covering more than one State (Clause 10).

The Centers shall:

  • be a report reception and processing center for all emergency calls;
  • ensure the efficient transmission of emergency signals to relevant responder agencies;
  • handle such other tasks as may be considered expedient under this Bill (Clause 11).

6.   Management of the Centers: -

The Centers shall be managed from time to time by officers designated to do so, and they shall report to the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission on all activities of the Centers (Clause 12).

7.    Federal Emergency Coordinating Committee (“Federal Committee”): -

There shall be established, a committee to be known as Federal Response Coordinating Committee, which shall be responsible for the initiation and coordination of response among responder agencies. The Committee shall work closely with all the Public Safety Answering Centers in the Federation as well as the responder agencies.

8.    Response Coordination: -

The Federal Committee shall provide coordination exclusively in:

  • National security emergencies
  • Aviation emergencies
  • Navigational emergencies

In consultation with the State Committees, the Federal Committee shall provide response coordination in:

  • Natural disasters;
  • Fire emergencies
  • Road emergencies
  • Robbery and crime emergencies

9.    Membership of the Federal Committee: -

The Federal Committee shall consist of a representative of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), who shall be the Chairman; Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC); Defense Headquarters; Trade Unions; Civil Society; Nigerian Union of Journalists; and Nigerian Police Force.

10.   State Response Coordinating Committee (“the State Committee”):

There shall be established, a State Response Coordinating Committee in all States of the Federation and the FCT, which shall be responsible for the coordination of response among responder agencies (Clause 14). The State Committees shall work closely with the Public Safety Answering Centers in the State of its jurisdiction as well as responder agencies.

11.    State Committees’ Response Coordination: -

The State Committee shall also provide coordination in –

  • natural disasters
  • fire emergencies
  • road emergencies
  • robbery and crime related emergencies

12.   Membership of the State Committee: -

The State Committee shall consist of a representative:

The State Emergency Management Agency (who shall be the Chairman); Nigerian Communication Commission; Trade Unions; Civil Society; Nigerian Union of Journalists; Nigeria Police Force and National Security and Civil Defense Corps.

The State Committee shall be appointed by the Advisory Committee on such terms and conditions it shall prescribe.

13. Responder Agencies: -

The Federal Ministries, Extra-Ministerial Departments, Parastatals and other bodies set out in this Bill shall be the responder agencies, and –

  • provide swift response to cases of disaster or emergency as may be referred;
  • consider its primary and obligatory function as its first area of jurisdiction to the extent of providing swift response;
  • ensure that all cases received get the desired prompt attention and as well involve all other relevant government agencies, and
  • carry out other duties that may be assigned to it in the course of disaster and emergency management.

Clause 15(2) lists the responder agencies as Federal Ministries of Transport, Environment, and Interior; NEMA, Nigerian Police Force, Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria, Nigerian Maritime Authority, National Inland Waterways Authority, Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria, National Youth Service Corps, Office of the National Security Adviser, Federal Road Safety Commission, Nigerian Meteorological Agency and Federal and State Fire Service.

14.   Membership of the Advisory Committee: -

Clause 17 provides the list of members of the Advisory Committee as follows -:

  • a Chairman
  • one representative from –
    • Ministry of Transport
    • Ministry of Information and Communication
    • Nigerian Police force
    • Nigerian Maritime Authority
    • Federal Fire Service
    • Federal Road Safety Commission
    • Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria
  • Director general of NEMA
  • Two persons with cognate experience in emergency communication; and
  • Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)

The Chairman and other members, other than the ex-officio members shall be appointed by the President.

15.   Tenure of Office: -

The Chairman and other members of the Advisory Committee other than the ex-officio members, shall hold office:-

  • for a term of 4 years in the first instance and may be re-appointed for another 4 years and no more.
  • On such terms and conditions as may be specified in his letter of appointment (Clause 18)

16.    Cessation of Membership: -

A person shall cease to hold office as a member of the Advisory Committee if –

  • he becomes bankrupt
  • he is convicted of a felony
  • he becomes of unsound mind
  • he is guilty of misconduct in relation to his duties
  • he is disqualified or suspended from practicing his profession in any part of the world by a competent body/authority, in a case where he possesses a professional membership
  • he resigns his appointment by a letter addressed to the President.

If a member of the advisory committee ceases to hold office for any reason, before the expiration of the term for which he is appointed, another person representing the same interest as that member shall be appointed for the unexpired term (Clause 19(2))

A member may be removed from office by the President if he is satisfied that it is not in the interest of the Agency or public that the person remains in office.

17.  Establishment and Powers of the Advisory Committee: -

There is hereby established the Emergency Communications Advisory Committee (“the Advisory Committee”) (Clause 16).

Clause 20 provides that the Advisory Committee shall have the power to –

  • give the Executive Vice Chairman directives of a general nature for carrying the provisions of this Bill (when it becomes law) into full effect;
  • provide general policy guidelines for the Commission in respect to the provision of this Bill;
  • do such other things which in its opinion are necessary to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission under this Bill.

18.   Functions of the Commission: -

The Commission shall –

  • coordinate emergency communications throughout the Federation
  • establish public safety answering centers in the capital city of each state of the federation and the FCT;
  • supervise public safety answering center established under this Bill
  • provide stability and resource to all public safety answering centers, to facilitate the deployment of emergency communication services throughout the country;
  • carry out public awareness and education on the establishment and operations of the Agency;
  • ensure the maintenance of a data bank on all emergency calls
  • assess and review the level of response initiated by the responder agencies listed under this Bill;
  • carry out research work on the needs, impact and problems relating to emergency communications calls;
  • ensure the collection of all funds accruing to the agency under this Bill
  • provide an annual report to the National Assembly annually in the month of June every year;

19.    Directives of the President: -

The President may give directives of a general nature or relating generally to matters of policy to the Advisory Committee with regard to the exercise of its function as he may consider necessary and it shall be the duty of the Advisory Committee to comply with the directives or cause them to be complied with (Clause 23).

20.  Regulations: -

The Commission may make such regulations as in its opinion are necessary or expedient for giving full effect to the provisions of this Bill and for the due administration of its provisions (when it becomes law).

21.   Annual Report to the National Assembly:

Audited accounts of the Commission along with report of its activities during the preceding year and the auditor’s report, shall be submitted to the relevant committees of both Houses of the National assembly not later than June of each year (Clause 22).

22.   Non-Compliance:

Any responder agency, which fails to provide the desired appropriate response, shall be liable to the payment of adequate compensation as may be determined by a Federal High Court or High Court of a State (Clause 15(3))

Notwithstanding any other enactment, regulators or directives, evasion or negligence to the provisions of this Bill, any telecommunication operator in Nigeria that fails to ensure due mobilization and appropriate remittal into the Emergency Communication Fund, all funds standing to the credit of emergency communication charges, shall be liable to the withdrawal of operating license and payment of 7 (seven) times the amount not remitted or evaded

CONCLUDING ISSUES

The Bill seeks to enhance the nation’s internal security and the capacity to manage disaster and emergencies through provision of emergency communication facilities. It seeks to enable citizen-activated response to emergencies; and the establishment of public safety answering centers throughout the country.

Several agencies are listed on the Bill as the responder agencies (see above). That means that these MDAs would require strengthening in order to effectively carry out the duties of a ‘responder’. The various Acts setting up these MDAs would need to be amended to add emergency responder as provided under this Bill to their functions. For instance, though NEMA is statutorily empowered to respond to emergency situations across Nigeria, the proposed coordination that this Bill seeks to create with a Federal Emergency Coordinating Committee needs to be provided for in the NEMA (Est.) Act 2004.

The NEMA Act provides for State Emergency Coordination Committees for each state and NEMA being the federal coordinating body; however, the Bill seeks to create a separate body to be known as Federal Emergency Coordinating Committee.

Rather than creating a new body to coordinate communication between the emergency response agencies, a unit within NEMA can be strengthened to perform this role and no agency created. This Bill can be consolidated with National Emergency Management Agency (Est.) Act 2004 (Amend.) Bill – HB 804, sponsored by Hon. Ali Isa and National Emergency Management Agency Act, 2004 (Amend.) Bill – HB 985, sponsored by Hon. Joseph E. Edionwele, to provide for the strengthening of NEMA’s communication unit.

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