Zainab Ahmed reveals why e-Customs project is delayed
Minister of finance, budget and national planning, Zainab Ahmed has disclosed that the e-Customs project was delayed due to breaches on the part of Adani Mega Systems Limited and litigation filed by the company.
The e-Customs project aims to automate administrative processes of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) by providing innovative measures that eliminate paper-based functions.
The federal executive council (FEC) in 2020 had awarded a $3.1 billion contract for the automation of the operations of the NCS — despite a court case instituted by Adani System Limited.
Adani System Limited had instituted a suit, claiming that it signed an agreement with the CBN Technical Committee on Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) to modernise customs in 2017.
She said this while making presentations before the house of representatives joint ad-hoc committee on customs and excise, finance as well as banking and currency on Monday.
The joint ad-hoc committee was set up to investigate the “Debacle Between The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Technical Committee On Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) and Adani Mega Systems Ltd Hindering The Take Off Of Nigeria Customs Service Modernisation Project”.
Ahmed, represented by Steven Okon, director, public finance of the ministry, said the contract was cancelled because it was established that the company was not competent enough to handle the contract.
According to her, after the contract was terminated, Adani Mega Systems instituted three different lawsuits against the federal government over the matter.
She said the litigations are some of the reasons which prevented the government from proceeding with alternative arrangements for the execution of the project.
Hameed Ali, the comptroller general (CG), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), represented by Sa’idu Galadima, the officer in charge of ICT and modernisation, said there had been several attempts to hasten this crucial project that would transform customs operations.
According to him, the national assembly had investigated the matter and had made its recommendations.
He added that the NCS was surprised that the matter is coming up again.
According to him, the CBN technical committee on CISS allegedly agreed with Adani without the knowledge of the ministry of finance and the NCS.
“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,” he said.
“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 is a non-juridical person, lacks the capacity to enter into any legal agreement.
“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.”
On his part, Leke Abejide, chairman, house committee on customs and excise, (APC, Kogi), said there has been a back and forth on the commencement of the e-Customs, which could have generated billions of revenue.
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