Lagos to jail false emergency callers

Gov Babatunde Raji Fashola

Gov Babatunde Raji Fashola

Kazeem Ugbodaga

Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, western Nigeria, has signed a bill into law stipulating three years imprisonment or N500,000 fine for anybody making false calls into the state’s emergency call lines, 767 and 112.

The Law to Establish the Lagos State Emergency Command and Control Centre, was signed on Monday at the State House, Ikeja.

Section 14 (1) of the law states that “any person who knowingly gives or causes to be given a false alarm to a person acting on behalf of the centre or who uses emergency telephone lines in any way other than those stipulated in section 10 commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or to imprisonment for a term of three years or in addition to any sentence imposed by virtue of this section, the court may order the offender to perform community service for such period as the court may determine.”

The law also states in section 14 (2) that any person who misuses the telephone lines of any agency providing emergency services in the state commits an offence and liable on conviction to the same penalty as specified in subsection (1) of this section.

Section 13 (1) of the law stipulates that the centre might refuse any person, business or firm the right to access its emergency telephone numbers if it had reasons to believe that calls from that number would adversely affect the operations of the centre.

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According to the law, the centre might request the relevant telephone service providers to make available the call originator’s phone numbers and identification details to the centre where a determination is made that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the caller has persistently misuse an emergency telephone number.

Section 14 (3) says in addition to the penalties stipulated under subsection (1) and (2) of this section, on the application of the aggrieved agency to the court, the offenders shall be liable to pay to the agency the cost of any service deployed or action taken in response to the false call.

The law further says where a person misuses or persistently misuses the emergency number of the centres, the person commits an offence under section 14 of this law and where upon information available to it, the centre believes that a person has misused any emergency number, the centre may give that person a notification under section 12.

The law says a notification under this section shall set out the findings made by the centre and specify the nature of misuse or persistent misuse detected by the centre, adding that any person may treated as persistently misusing the emergency numbers in any case in which the misuse is repeated on more than two occasions so that it appears the misuse represents a pattern of behaviour or practice or reckless as to such misuse, results in annoyance, inconvenience or waste of tax payers funds.

Fashola said these two numbers were sacrosanct to emergency situations and that as such, the public must not be allowed to abuse them, stressing that the lines were not meant for the public to commend the centre or complain about neighbours making noise.

He stated that clogging the line during emergency period would jeopardize rescue operations, saying there was the need for Lagosians to embrace attitudinal change.