Mr Edwin Darlington Okafor is a Nigerian professional in digital communications and security based in Indonesia. He is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Access Telecommunications Services Link Limited. His passion for school security has driven him to voluntarily offer and donate need-based security solutions to a number of schools in Nigeria. He shares his thoughts on security and a number of other issues with ABDUSSALAM AMOO in this interview. Excerpts are presented below.
Can you tell us about your company, Access Telecommunication Services Link Limited Indonesia?
Access Telecommunications Service Link Limited is a registered company in Nigeria and Indonesia with the view to providing a wide range of services in telecommunications and security. The company has broadened its scope and ventured into development of tailored made solutions like Eagles Eyes, Access Credit Card Security, Access-Me, Access Gold, among other solutions. We also work in partnership with PT. Multi-Stanley Ltd in Indonesia.
What motivated your interest in security management?
We started with telecommunications delivering remote monitoring solutions. At a time, we discovered that insecurity has been on the increase across the world. Therefore, we created applications and devices to forestall individual and institutional security.
Homes, offices, schools and malls, among others, are usually targets of attacks. There is, therefore, the need to put in place adequate security measures in these places.
A major aspect of your work has focused on schools. What’s the driving force for that?
My passion for children and my dear nation, Nigeria are the driving forces behind these innovations. We discovered that it is through schools that you can manage the future of the society. By deploying security solutions that can teleguide students and the school management.
Our schools are not generally safe. The Chibok girls’ kidnap is still fresh in our memories just as other school kidnapping incidences that had followed that.
The school is not safe, the public is not safe. I therefore decided that since it is my field, I should come up with a product that can streamline the insecurity in schools and protect school premises. That gave birth to the protect we call Access-Me.
Tell us more about Access-Me.
Access-Me is a hybrid security solution tailored to bring parents and the school together into the same platform so that everyday, you know your child’s whereabouts. It gives daily reports about the child to their parents so that they can easily locate them irrespective of physical distance.
This security solution is satellite based. The schools will be protected under the watch of this solution and has added advantage to update parents on child’s activities while in school, in the hostel or out of school. The headlink connected to this capable of catching rule violators and reporting them to appropriate authorities.
Each school has its unique security challenge and so, we provide solutions according to their observed needs. Porosity of school environment, drug abuse, homosexuality, truancy, and examination malpractices are among negative activities that impact school security.
This solution, when deployed, keeps the entire school, staff and the children safe while the parents have peace of mind. The solution has a tripartite structure where school/child, the police and the parents are on the same platform.
We meet with the school management as well as the Parents-Teachers’ Association to discuss further on identified security and children’s welfare issues. The goal of this is to save the future of Nigeria.
The nitty-gritty of the solution cannot be fully disclosed for security reasons. We request the end-user to reach us through our local representative for close discussion.
Considering that many schools may not able to foot the bills, how are you making Access-Me accessible to schools?
We know that many schools would see such a product as expensive. So, we decided to provide it free of charge.
What has your experience been like in the IT world in Nigeria?
My experience is not palatable as Nigeria is lagging behind technologically. IT requires software tools provided by software developers, which are not readily available in this country. I, therefore, partner with other players outside Nigeria to achieve the transformation of my ideas into the innovations we have to our credit.
What factors are responsible for the tide of insecurity and how can these be solved?
Beyond the rhetorics, the major challenge is that we are secretive about the issue of security. We have not been able to figure out those behind insecurity and the factors that cause insecurity.
A major reason for insecurity is unemployment. Not everybody will work with the government. Then, not even multinational companies can absolve up to 10,000 workers at once. Yet, we keep rolling out graduates almost everyday. Where do you expect these people to work?
An idle hand is the devil’s workshop, they say. After spending years without jobs, some of these graduates may turn to illegalities leading to insecurity.
Government is not even helping matters by not providing incentives for small businesses to survive. Multiple taxation alone could easily asphyxiate a budding business.
Another thing is enforcement. If someone commits a crime, ensure you jail him, publicly dent his image and make sure he cannot do anything meaningful again. If our law enforcement agencies do these, that will curtail insecurity.
Through collaborations, we can scale through the challenges. My company can support with technology transfer. This is an industry capable of feeding millions of Nigerian homes. With that, insecurity would reduce. Someone who is into a business making money from it would have no business around criminality.
We also need effective laws to put an end to insecurity. Someone caught in a crime should not be seen to be walking free the next day just because of some legal technicalities manipulated before the jury.
What is your perspective about the clamour for state police?
State or community policing is a good idea. But then, the issue of equipping security personnel adequately must be considered.
Such an arrangement may be susceptible to abuse. Once you don’t like the face of your neighbours, you may decide to use the police against them since they are at your beck and call.
Rather, we should encourage watchdogs. People should be able to report security challenges around them to the police without fear or favour. With these, we would stem insecurity in Nigeria.
In which areas do you think your firm can be of great impact in the society?
We can help fight the insecurity challenges experienced around the nation using our solutions. The society will be a better place with the installation of any of our products.
What advise can you give to government, schools, homes and organisation the need to provide security?
I can’t advice the government but can request for support from them. These solutions have government content as security is the responsibility of government.
We decided to donate ACCESS-ME to schools because of my passion for children and again to my country, Nigeria. Child security is of most concern to parents and guardians. Access-Me inculcates a device that can alert parents or guardians of the whereabouts of their children and or in danger.
Every organisation, home, school needs security and should go for security products that are tailored to solve their unique challenge.
We made it free for schools to ensure safe learning environment and to carry the parents along with the teaching of their children for the purpose of having a better future for Nigerian children. It’s not a commercial product but my contribution to my fatherland, Nigeria.