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Lawmakers, NCS, others lament N3.6trn loss to delayed e-Customs project

Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd.), Comptroller-General of NCS

*The House of Representatives, Nigeria Customs Service, and other government agencies decry the country’s loss of huge revenue to the non-take off of e-Customs modernisation project in line with the country’s digital economy agenda

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Members of the Nigerian House of Representatives in the National Assembly (NASS), Abuja, FCT; Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Nigeria Customs Service (NCS); and other stakeholders have lamented the non-takeoff of the multi-billion Dollar e-Customs project.

ConsumerConnect gathered that the delay is estimated to cost the West African country a revenue loss of about $8.8 billion (N3.6 trillion).

Nigerian House of representatives in a plenary session

The Federal lawmakers and agencies disclosed this development while making separate presentations Monday, February 21, 2022, at a day’s investigative hearing by the House of Representatives joint Ad hoc Committee on Customs and Excise, Finance as well as Banking and Currency, in Abuja, FCT.

The Joint Ad hoc Committee was constituted to investigate the ‘Debacle between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Technical Committee on Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) and Adani Mega Systems Ltd, which is said to be hindering the take-off of the Nigeria Customs Service Modernisation Project’.

Hon. Leke Abejide, Chairman, House of Reps Committee on Customs and Excise, said the $3.1 billion projects was commissioned over a 20-year period.

The legislator said: “There has been back and forth on the issue of the e-Customs modernisation project, whose objective is to completely automate every aspect of administration.

“And from our findings, which is the major reason for today’s meetings, a PPP arrangement was made with a certain consortium (Huawei Consortium), using the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV); E-Customs HC.”

The lawmaker also stated: “The mandate was for the company to develop, design, implement and maintain the required E-Customs end-to-end ICT platform, digitalise customs business, upgrade ICT infrastructure to world-class and deploy 135 scanners across seaports and border stations.”

Abejide further said that the Lower House of NASS sought to know through the Joint Committee, the stumbling block against the take-off of the project.

“Averagely, the sum of $8.810billion will be generated yearly from the implementation of the project which I believe shall be more if properly implemented, and this will go a long way to reduce our vulnerability to external debt and it will strengthen our currency too.”

Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Honourable Minister for  Finance, Budget and National Planning, represented by Steven Okon, Director of Public Finance in the ministry, said that the company was found incompetent to handle the contract; hence, its cancellation.

The Minister also disclosed that after the termination of the contract, Adani Mega Systems instituted three different court cases against the Federal Government over the matter.

According to Mrs. Ahmed, the litigations are some of the factors that prevented the government from going ahead with alternative arrangements for the execution of the multi-billion Dollar project.

In his submission, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd.), Comptroller-General (CG), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), represented at the forum by Sa’idu Galadima, Officer in charge of ICT and Modernisation, said there had been several attempts to scuttle the crucial project that promises to transform Customs operations in the country.

Ali said that the CBN Technical Committee on CISS allegedly entered into the agreement with Adani without the knowledge of the Ministry of Finance and NCS.

The Comptroller-General further noted: “This information was leaked to the Service by a whistleblower who was introduced to the NCS by the House Committee on Customs, backed with relevant documents.

“Consequently, the Chairman of the CISS was invited by the Comptroller General of Customs, and after a series of discussions, he was made to realise that the committee, being a non-juridical person, lacked the capacity to enter into any legal agreement.”

He noted: “Furthermore, investigations carried out by the Service revealed that, Messrs Adani Mega Systems Limited, outsourced the agreement to an unauthorised third party, Adani International Limited (UK) registered four months after the agreement was signed and the company has since been dissolved.

“It was upon the realisation of this misrepresentation, that the Committee on CISS cancelled the agreement entered into with Messrs Adani Mega Systems Limited, via a letter Ref:TED/DIR/GAM/GEN/01/025 dated 18th September, 2017.”

However, the House Joint Committee rejected Adani Mega Systems’ presentation on the ground that it fell short of what was required for presentation.

It was learnt the legislators then, gave company another date to bring all the necessary documents for fresh presentation to the committee.

The CBN and others are also expected to make their presentations at another date.

The Committee adjourned sitting to March 4, 2022.

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