FEC Approves N142.24bn e-Customs Project Amid Controversy

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The Federal Government, on Wednesday, in Abuja, approved an e-Customs modernisation project worth at least N142.24bn amid reports of an existing court order restraining it from proceeding with the project.

The Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, who said he was unaware of any court order on the project, disclosed this to State House correspondents shortly after this week’s Federal Executive Council meeting, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The concessionaire includes Bergman Securities Consultant and Suppliers Limited as the project sponsor, Africa Finance Corporation UFC as the lead financier and Huawei Technologies as the lead technical service provider.

Agba said the concessionaire had furnished the government with $9m (N4.14bn) security from the satisfactory performance of the project plus a debt facility timesheet in the sum of $300m (N138bn) to finance the first phase of the project.

He also revealed that the concessionaire will take 45 per cent of all that accrues to the comprehensive input service scheme while 55 per cent goes to the FG.

The concessionaire will also keep 25 per cent of what accrues to the Nigerian export supervision scheme, while 75 per cent will go to the FG.

On April 18, two Senior Advocates of Nigeria reportedly asked the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to obey a court order relating to a dispute on the e-Customs Modernisation project.

In separate letters, the lawyers, Messrs Ahmed Raji and Dipo Okpeseyi, warned the AGF, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, of “underhand efforts being made to obtain the Federal Executive Council’s approval and or ratification of the re-award of the e-Customs Modernisation Project.”

They asked the FEC to suspend or discountenance any request to initiate deliberations or a fresh request for approval for the award of the said contract to any other bidder asides from the original approval earlier granted to Messrs e-Customs Project Limited.

“It is in spite of all these that the Nigeria Customs Service is pushing to have the FEC grant another approval with the sole purpose to embarrass, over reach and undermine the earlier approval and ratification by the FEC and prejudice the matter pending in court,” said Okpeseyi in his letter to the SGF dated April 11, 2023.

In June 2022, the Federal High Court in Abuja restrained the FG from enforcing or giving effect to an agreement on the e-Customs Modernisation Project allegedly executed by its agents on May 30, 2022.

On February 20, 2023, the court admonished all parties to preserve the rest of any matter before the court and do nothing to interfere with the proceedings.

It issued an order of interim injunction against the FG or its agents acting through the FEC from retroactively ratifying the decision to concession the Customs Modernisation Project to Trade Modernization Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Limited and African Finance Corporation.

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