HOSTING the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is one of the biggest opportunities for the members to showcase their countries internationally. But the event requires a lot of resources and careful planning.
Because there were well over 3,000 delegates, including 52 heads of government and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll, security was thrown around every part of the city with some of the Nigerian Secret Service Personnel and Snipers atop high rise buildings.
Access to hotels and the venue of the meeting was restricted to the barest minimum and random checks were carried out.
At many major road junctions and around the luxury hotels in Abuja and airport terminals, security was watertight. Vehicles with â€˜Operation Fire for Fireâ€™ painted across their bodywork, were ready for action.
A 150,000 strong combined force of police, army and Nigeriaâ€™s Secret Service gave security cover. At the police headquarters, two helicopters were on stand-by.
There were no public walkabouts on busy streets leading to the meeting venue. Beggars and other street urchins were cleared off the streets. Entry to all major installations was by identification tags. Another special operations vehicle named â€˜Hurricane Ground Forceâ€™, moved around State House, ensuring safety.
There was elaborate security cover at Nicon Hilton Hotel, where all the 52 heads of government lounged. The Hotelâ€™s entire 670 saleable rooms were evacuated and some of the employees sent home.
The Queenâ€™s Special Guard manned security at her residence, a former presidential palace.
Photography was restricted to pool photographers, specially selected each day. No chances were taken at places where the Queen visited or during the state banquet in her honour. A rope was used to delineate areas of movement of the journalists and other government officials.
CHOGM is a media event, which is covered adequately. There was an ultra-modern media centre equipped with facilities to cater for over 1,000 journalists.
The centre, managed by Globecast Africa, a South African-based company, had a floor of 3,800 square metres and cost $7m to set up, with a giant marquee hired from France.
The state-of-the art media centre was open 24 hours and journalists had 500 Internet points to hook on to.
Inside the tent were 96 different offices, telecom services and an information technology network, a business centre and other peripheral services.
The main briefing room sat 350 journalists. There were additional briefing and interview rooms and a working area with space for at least 100 to 150 journalists at a time.
There were additional services provided by Globecast like six edit suites for CNN, BBC, South African Broadcasting Company, Canadian TV, Australian TV and UKâ€™s International Television Network.
Other rooms were equipped with broadcast equipment and machines for video transfers, all cabled to a control room. There was also a media restaurant.
To avoid power blackouts, Globecast brought in three huge generators (1250 KVAâ€™s). There were also five mobile Internet services in form of five luxury buses fitted with full Internet access to ensure that journalists were hooked up on line even on their way to the airport.
With the help of Nigerian Television Authority, live pictures from arrivals at the airport and meetings at the International Conference Centre were beamed on plasma screens at the media centre, using optic fibre link.
Every evening, there was a social event outside the media centre for the journalists to unwind after the dayâ€™s work.
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