…..Trade Modernisation ltd incompetent, has no track record–Sources
Despite an ongoing litigation process over the $3.1billion controversial modernisation of Nigeria Customs Service(NCS), the Federal Ministry of Finance has allegedly midwife the process of taking over by Trade Modernisation Nigeria Limited, which may stall businesses at the nation’s ports.
Sources close to Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited, the company earlier granted FEC approval for the modernisation contract and presently challenging the award to another firm, disclosed that a tripartite meeting between the Ministry, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Webb Fontaine was held on Saturday December 31 to formalise handover.
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, had in July 2022 vacated the interim order that had stalled the NCS Modernisation project, following a suit instituted by Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited.
Vacating the order, Justice I.E. Ekwo ruled that while the interim order, which he granted to the plaintiffs on June 17, 2022 had expired, it was necessary for the court to formally make a pronouncement to vacate the order.
While Trade Modernisation, a completely new player with no record in the industry, and registered only on April 5, 2022 , is yet to get ratification from the Federal Executive Council to access funds in the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS), it is feared that customs transactions in the sea ports, airports and land borders will likely suffer hitches that could delay trade and revenue.
It is feared that the trial period could lead to port congestion, delay in revenue collection and loss to many port users as arrangement to fund necessary purchases like system maintenance, and other critical technical aspects have not been made.
The dramatic approval of the $3.1 billion Customs modernisation project to another party completely different from the one earlier approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) is currently a subject of legal battle involving several parties.
Joining in the suit by Bionica , another company, Adani Mega Systems Limited, had accused the Federal Government of acting unlawfully in awarding the contract.
Adani stressed that there were several pending suits on the matter before other courts.
In a motion on notice brought before the court by Taiwo Abe, counsel to Adani Mega Systems Limited, the company while seeking to be joined in the matter listed the cases and described the government’s action as subjudice.
The firm averred that it would be affected by the outcome of the ongoing matter while listing some of the pending cases it claimed were on and related which are concerned with automation of NCS.
Adani Mega Systems Limited, through its lawyer wrote that, “The purported Federal Executive Council approval of 2nd September 2020, and the signing of the contract award to the Defendants for automation of the activities of the Nigeria Customs Service E-customs when an action is pending is clearly subjudice, pre-emptive of the court’s decision, illegal, unlawful and done to steal a match against the applicant. B.
“The subject matter of this instant suit is the same contract which was awarded to the Party/Applicant seeking to be joined by virtue of Project Engagement Mandate from the Central Bank of Nigeria dated February 26, 2017, and a build, operate and own agreement on March 20, 2017, and the Party/Applicant seeking to be joined holds a valid and duly executed contract with the Technical Committee of the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) which included the 1 to the 5 Defendants/Respondents and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria, as the Service Provider/Vendor for the Enterprise Screening Platform for the inspection of all inbound and outbound cargo as prescribed by Nigerian law.”
It stated further that, “By virtue of the relevant laws of Nigeria, only the Central Bank of Nigeria through the Technical Committee set up for that purpose has the mandate, power and authority to administer the provisions of the Pre Shipment Inspection of Exports Act and the Pre-Shipment Inspection of Imports Act and it is in furtherance of this powers that the Central Bank of Nigeria through the Technical Committee set up for that purpose engaged the services of the Party/Applicant seeking to be joined for the provision of the scanning services infrastructure and Octopus required for inspection of all inbound and outbound cargo as required by law in Nigeria.
“In compliance with the relevant due process laws of Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria sought and obtained a letter of ‘No Objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement with regards to the contract between the claimant and the federal government of Nigeria through the Technical Committee of the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS).”
“The Central Bank of Nigeria without any legal ground, reason or Justification purportedly terminated the said valid, legal contract on the 18th day of September, 2017 which illegal, unlawful, invalid termination is now subject of several litigations before the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division.”