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Customs CG, Hammed Ali, Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, Others In $3.1Billion E-Customs Project Scandal

The Nigerian government has ratified the re-award of concession on the implementation of the Nigeria Customs Service Modernisation Project worth $3.1 billion to Messrs E. Customs HC Project Limited, a Chinese firm despite a restraining court order.

The government previously awarded the project to Messrs Adani Mega Systems Limited/Webb Fontaine.

The NCS Comptroller-General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) had explained that the NCS would generate a whopping revenue of $176 billion over the next 20 years through the implementation of e-Customs project.

According to Ali, the e-Customs concession project would ease the cost of doing business, boost revenue, enhance productivity and stop every arbitrariness in the service.

He had said, “The $3.2 billion e-Customs project to be financed by the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and managed by Huawei Technologies Limited under a 20-year concession window, when fully implemented, would quadruple Customs’ current N210 billion monthly revenue collection.”

Rising from the FEC meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently, the Minister of State, Finance, Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba said the council approved a memo appointing Messrs Bergman Security Consultant and Supplies Limited as the project sponsor, Africa Finance Corporation, as lead financier while Huawei Technologies will be retained as lead technical service provider.

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The action is however against the advice by the Solicitor Gen­eral of the Federation on the issue.

The Solicitor General had written to the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, urging her to consider the strength and weakness as well as litigation fees of $2.5 billion and lengthy time frame of embarking on this case and how that may affect the ultimate goal of government for revenue generation.

“On the other hand, the presidency, through the of­fice of the Chief of Staff to the President, issued a let­ter dated September 17, 2019, engaging the consortium, ti­tled ‘Presidential Initiative on Customs Modernisa­tion’, to carry out the same project awarded to Messrs Adani Mega Systems Lim­ited/Webb Fontaine seven months after they were en­gaged by the CBN-CISS.

“It is the opinion of the committee that the presidency was not duly informed of the existing contract agreement and litigation filed by Messrs Adani Mega Systems Limited/Webb Fontaine,” the report had read.

The report revealed that the Nigerian government acted in breach of an ear­lier contract award terms with Messrs Adani Mega Systems Limited/Webb Fontaine consortium that must have responded to a June 20, 2016 advert.

Multiple sources who spoke to SaharaReporters accused the Minister of Finance and Customs CG of being behind the scandal.

They alleged that both of them have interest in the new company that was awarded the project despite a court order.

“Hammed Ali, CG Customs is the Chairman of Buhari Support Organisation and he is determined to build a Presidential Library for Buhari after retirement. So he is doing everything to raise the fund through access to NCS’ dollar account.

“Fronting for Ali in this scandal is one Ahmadu Saleh, who is the biological brother of Zainab Jummai Umar-Ajijola. Both are directors of Bergman Security Consultants. Saleh is the chairman, Zainab is the MD.

“Both of them were prompted by Hammed Ali to register Trade Modernization Project Limited on April 5, 2022, to bid for a project approved by FEC on 2 September 2020.”

The Federal High Court in Abuja in June 2022, restrained the Nigerian government from enforcing or giving effect to the agreement on the Customs Modernisation Project executed by its agents on May 30, 2022, which substituted the rightful concessionaire with another company- Trade Modernization Project Limited- registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission on 6 April 2022.

The plaintiffs, E-customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited had jointly challenged the alleged unlawful and fraudulent replacement of their names in the concession agreement earlier approved by President Buhari and ratified by FEC on 2 September 2020.

On 20 February, 2023, Justice Inyang Ekwo asked all parties to preserve the res of the matter and do nothing to interfere with the proceedings.

The agents who allegedly executed the disputed concession agreement are the Nigeria Customs Service, Trade Modernization Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Nigeria Limited and Africa Finance Corporation.

The court also issued an order of interim injunction against the Nigerian government or its agents, acting through the Federal Executive Council, from retrospectively ratifying the decision to concession the Customs Modernisation Project also known as e-Customs Project to Trade Modernization Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Limited and Africa Finance Corporation.

The court also specified that the order shall last till the hearing and the determination of the suit brought against the Federal Government and other parties by two aggrieved companies.

The case was on Wednesday adjourned to 8 June 2023, for a definite hearing.

Efforts to reach the Customs spokesman, CSC Abdullahi Aliyu Maiwada, for comments, were unsuccessful as he did not answer calls from SaharaReporters nor reply to text messages sent to him.

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