When the government rolled out Safaricom’s Sh14.9 billion National Surveillance, Communication and Control System linking all security agencies, Kenyans besieged by terror attacks sighed with relief in the belief that the days of criminals running rings around the police were over.
The mobile phone giant installed tamper-proof, high-definition and ultra-high definition CCTV cameras in Mombasa and Nairobi, that were to be connected to a national command and control room.
According the Business Daily, the system would have analytical capabilities allowing for facial and movement recognition from the CCTV footage that would be relayed to the command and control centre in real time.
But it now appears crooked elements are renting the service from the police to settle scores with innocent and law-abiding citizens.
Linet (not her real name) bought a vehicle on loan from a Mombasa-based motor car dealer. She dutifully serviced her loan, but her monthly income suddenly shrunk, forcing her to renege on payments. Though the balance of the Toyota Allion car was only Sh350,000 from the initial purchase price of Sh1.4 million, the businesswoman was unable to clear the remaining amount due to the unforeseeable economic circumstances and defaulted for two consecutive months.
Impounded at a garage
Unknown to Linet, the impatient dealer sought the services of an auctioneer to reclaim the vehicle. The auctioneer is based in Nairobi, where Linet, who apart from investing in real estate, dabbles as a security consultant. Towards the end of last month, the vehicle was impounded at a garage near Globe Cinema roundabout, where it had been taken for repair. The auctioneer allegedly arrived in the company of six armed officers.
Pleas by the two mechanics (names withheld) to be shown a court order fell on deaf ears. The vehicle was driven to Central Police Station where it was briefly detained before being taken to Pangani Police Station.
By the time Linet came to learn about the incident, the car could not be traced in Nairobi. Days later, she discovered the car was parked at a yard in Mombasa. She travelled to the coastal city, met the dealer and settled the matter after she cleared the outstanding balance of Sh350,000 and regained ownership of the car.
Before long, a Chief Inspector of police called her and disclosed the events that led to the seizure of the car. The businesswoman was shocked at the revelations that the auctioneer (a lady) had been assisted through the high-tech Integrated Command, Control and Communication (IC3) centre to track and locate the car.
She was given video footage allegedly obtained from the IC3 centre located at Jogoo House, showing the car’s movements for several days. Imprints on the films indicate vital details like vehicle plate, plate colour, passing time, driving direction, lane number and record type.
The cameras, for example, were trained on the car on three diverse dates of May 22, May 23 and May 25. At 01.24.17 on May 22, the car is captured coming from Mombasa Road towards Nyayo Stadium. At 01.33.56, the car is on Uhuru Highway from Bunyala roundabout. At 01.56.40 the vehicle is captured on Murang’a Road heading towards the Thika Superhighway.
On the same day at around 08.45.22, the car is captured on Limuru Road from the Central Business District (CBD), and two minutes later, it is on Forest Road towards the Museum Hill. At 20.08.35, the car is on the superhighway exiting Nairobi after being driven around Ring Road, Murang’a roundabout and the Globe Cinema interchange.
Captured on CCTV
On May 24, at 10.49.11, the car is on lane three cruising along the superhighway towards the CBD. At 22. 40.12, the car was spotted around Uthiru area from Kinoo, before hitting Waiyaki Way at 22.52.16 and about three minutes later, it is captured on Kipande Road. The following day at 17.15.27, the car is again spotted on the superhighway on lane three speeding towards the CDB. About three hours later, it is captured on the same superhighway at 20.54.21 heading towards Thika town.
Linet strongly believes the auctioneer was aided by police to monitor her car, which was impounded on May 25 as the two mechanics repaired it. She claims that after conducting her own investigations, she learnt that the auctioneer conspired with a senior traffic officer with links to the IC3 centre.
“The officer is colluding with a few officers at the CCTV centre at Jogoo House, who are paid some money to trail and locate vehicles on behalf of this unscrupulous auctioneer,” she claims, adding that a lawyer and Sacco official have also been victims of unauthorised tacking. If her revelations are true, then the sole aim of the IC3 centre of improving security risk being counter-productive.
But the National Police Service spokesman George Kinoti faulted Linet for not reporting the matter immediately she realised her car could not to be traced in the capital city. Kinoti however, assured us that should there be any evidence that the surveillance system is being misused, putting at risk the safety of the public, the respective officers will be punished accordingly.
The officer suspect Linet feared reporting because she was the one on the wrong for failing to honour her part of the car purchase deal. According to the spokesman, once the businesswoman realised her car was untraceable, she should have alerted the emergency call centre at IC3.
“A formal complaint was important. It would have helped us launch investigations and establish whether there are rogue officers at the centre whose aim is to curb crime and make it easier for police and the public to work together,” stated Kinoti.
Stephen Mogaka, a commercial lawyer, said the seller had no right to re-possess the car and accuses the dealer of breaking the law. According to the lawyer, once a property is sold, the seller forfeits ownership rights.
“He or she should have gone to court and demanded the balance of the purchase price and after convincing the court that the buyer was unable to clear the balance, obtained a court order for repossession,” explained Mogaka.
African Centre for Security and Strategic Studies director Dr Simiyu Werunga, says it is extremely dangerous and wrong to share with the public privileged information. According to him, if indeed it is true that a section of the public was having access to information from the IC3 centre, the officers in charge should be removed and replaced with fresh vetted ones.
“That is a very dangerous thing to happen in government. Any officer sharing information outside official circles is liable of breaching national intelligence. The system was to assist security organs with surveillance, not to perpetuate corruption,” stated Werunga.