The House of Representatives, Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other stakeholders have lamented the non-take-off of the multi-billion dollar E-Customs project.
The delay is estimated to cost the country a revenue loss of about $8.8 billion (N3.6 trillion).
The lawmakers and agencies made the disclosure while making separate presentations at a one-day investigative hearing by 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 which is said to be hindering the take-off of the Nigeria Customs Service Modernisation Project’.
The Chairman, House Committee on Customs and Excise, Leke Abejide, said the $3.1 billion project was commissioned over a 20-year period.
He 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 Project Ltd,” he said.
He said 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 said the House wants to know through the joint committee, the stumbling block against the take-off of the project.
He added: “Averagely, the sum of $8.810 billion American dollars 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.” In a submission, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, who was represented by the Director, Public Finance of the ministry, Steven Okon, said the company was found not competent enough to handle the contract which led to its cancellation.
She said after the termination of the contract, Adani Mega Systems instituted three different court cases against the federal government over the matter.
She said the litigations are some of the factors that prevented the government from going ahead with alternative arrangement for the execution of the project.
On his part, the Comptroller General (CG), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) who was represented by the officer in charge of ICT and Modernisation, Sa’idu Galadima, said there have been several attempts to scuttle the crucial project that will transform customs operations.
According to him, the CBN technical committee on CISS allegedly entered into the agreement with Adani without the knowledge of the Ministry of Finance and the Nigeria Customs Service.
“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 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.
“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, Adani Mega Systems’ presentation was rejected by the joint committee as it fell short of what was required for them to present.
It was given another date to bring all the necessary documents to the committee. The CBN and others are also expected to make their presentations.
The committee later adjourned sitting to March 4, 2022.