Uncertainty over AFC’s $3.1 billion fund for e-customs project
There is uncertainty over the status of the $3.1 billion African Finance Corporation (AFC) funding of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) modernisation project.
This comes as a Federal High Court has vacated an earlier order stopping the commencement of the project. At press time, The Guardian could not confirm the status of the fund, as electronic mail sent to AFC was not replied.
When contacted, the spokesman for the NCS, Timi Bomodi, expressed optimism about AFC’s participation in the project but was not specific if any amount had been released.
In a short telephone interview, Bomodi, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs said: “At this stage, they will release what needs to be released. Of course, they are working, nothing has stopped.
“There was never a time they stopped releasing the funds. They have signed an agreement. The $3.1billion is not money you just give to someone because it is big. This thing is going to be done in phases and they are proceeding with the phases.
“We have said from the beginning that the whole process will be done in phases. Every phase will have its component and AFC is working. For them to work, they will have funds. They are proceeding with the project whichever way they want to do it,” he said.
Prior to vacating the order, the court had restrained the Federal Government from enforcing or giving effect to the Customs Modernisation Project otherwise known as e-Custom, allegedly executed by its agents, on May 30, 2022.
The agents who allegedly executed the disputed concession project are the Nigerian Customs Service, Trade Modernisation Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Nigeria Limited, and African Finance Corporation.
The court also issued an order of interim injunction against the Federal Government or its agents acting through the Federal Executive Council from retrospectively ratifying the decisions to concession the e-Custom project to Trade Modernisation Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Limited, and African Finance Corporation.
The restraining order issued by Justice Inyang Ekwo shall last till the hearing and determination of a suit brought against the Federal Government by two aggrieved companies.
The two aggrieved companies are E-Customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited, which jointly challenged the alleged unlawful and fraudulent concession of the e-custom project to African Finance Corporation.
In another twist, Adani Mega Systems Limited, another firm that sought a joinder to the suit, alleged that the Federal Government acted illegally in awarding the project as according to it, as there are several pending suits on the matter before other courts.
In a motion on notice brought before the court by counsel to Adani Mega Systems Limited, Taiwo Abe, the company while seeking to be joined in the matter, listed the cases and described the government’s action as sub judice.
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 the automation of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Adani Mega Systems Limited, through its lawyer, wrote: “ The purported Federal Executive Council approval of September 2, 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 sub judice, pre-emptive of the court’s decision, illegal, unlawful and done to steal a match against the applicant.”