OrderPaperToday – A bill for an Act to establish a Nationwide Toll-free Emergency Number throughout the federation has scaled second reading during plenary on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday.

Sponsored by Senator Ibikunle Amosun (APC, Ogun Central), was read the first time on Wednesday, 2nd December, 2020.

In his debate, Sen. Amosun stated that the bill sought to provide for a nationwide toll-free emergency number that will aid the implementation of a national system of reporting emergencies and for other related matters.

“Emergency telephone number is typically a three-digit number that can be easily remembered and dialed quickly.

“Emergency numbers are needed in life-threatening situations. They can also be used to report emergencies of various types such as road accidents, fire, burglary, medical emergencies and so on.

“Emergency telephone lines are set up in a way that once a call is made, it must be answered by either a dedicated telephone operator, computer-aided call handling system, or an emergency service dispatcher trained to control the calls in order to provide help in an appropriate manner.

“The dispatcher may find it necessary to give urgent advice in life-threatening situations. Some have special training in telling people how to perform first aid or CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitations) which may be lifesaving.”

According to the lawmaker, the direct dial emergency number system was first deployed in United Kingdom in July 1937 using the code 999. In the United States, the first emergency call using the dedicated code ‘911’ was made in Haleyville, Alabama in 1968. India’s national emergency response number on the lines of 911 became operational in 2014.

“In many parts of the world, an emergency service can identify the telephone number that the call has been placed from. With the latest enhanced systems, such as the ‘911’ code, emergency telephone numbers are able to provide physical locations of mobile telephones, and these are often specifically mandated in a country’s enabling legislation.

“Nigeria has several helpline numbers for emergency situations. In Lagos State for example, there are several toll-free emergency numbers for Police, Ambulance, Fire Service, LASTMA, KAI, LASEMA, Women Abuse Domestic Violence helpline, Child Abuse helpline and flying Doctors (Air ambulance and medical crews) amongst others.

“The FCT, Ogun State and some other States of the Federation have different emergency numbers. The presence of multiple emergency telephone numbers in Nigeria have been identified as impediments to getting accelerated emergency response during emergency situations.

“The bill essentially seeks to establish efficient and effective emergency response system. It proposes the use of ‘112’ as the National Emergency number or any other three digit numbers as may be agreed upon during the Public Hearing, if the Bill scales through the second reading.

“A Nationwide system for reporting emergencies would dispense with the multiplicity of emergency numbers and provide a single point contact for assistance in case of any kind of emergency. Calls or text messages sent to the Emergency Number will land at the nearest public safety answering points or the control room for necessary secondary responses. Emergency number would create easy access to Nigerians especially those in remote areas, Nigerians and other residents in the country can use the toll free numbers to seek help in times of distress and emergency.

“Recent statistics shows that close to 90% of Nigerians own mobile phones, therefore a toll free emergency number will go a long way in ensuring that Nigerians in distress are just a dial away from the relevant emergency institutions. The number will provide a one stop shop for receiving distress calls from the public and dispatching same to appropriate response agencies (first responders) who will respond to the needs of the callers.

“The proposed 112 toll free national emergency line is easier to learn, remember and dial. It will save a lot of Nigerians the stress of having to memorize more than one emergency number.

“This bill clearly intervenes to facilitate emergency response system in the country by coordinating the response numbers for effective administration and management. For this to be effectively carried out, there is need for a synergy between the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), other relevant agencies of the Government and the Mobile Network Service Providers”, he concluded.

The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan referred the bill to Committee on Communication for further legislative inputs.

 

Reporting by Blessing Ojochenemi

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