The court stops the e-Customs concession contract

Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday prevented the Federal Government from enforcing or giving effect to an agreement on the Customs Modernization Project, otherwise known as e-custom, which would have been carried out by its agents on May 30, 2022.

The agents allegedly executing the disputed concession agreement are the Nigeria Custom Service, Trade Modernization Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Nigeria Limited and African Finance Corporation.

The court also issued an interim injunction order against the Federal Government or its agents acting through the Federal Executive Council to retroactively ratify the decision to award the Customs Modernization Project to Trade Modernization Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Limited and African Finance Corporation.

The restraining order issued by Judge Inyang Ekwo will last until the hearing and disposition of a lawsuit filed against the federal government and other parties by two aggrieved companies – Messrs. E-customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited. The companies jointly contested the alleged illegal and fraudulent concession of the e-custom project to the defendants.

The lawyer for the two injured companies, Anone Usman, had argued an ex parte application to the Federal High Court for interim injunctions against the defendants to protect the interests of his clients.

Judge Ekwo, while ruling on the ex parte application, granted the prayers of the plaintiffs who had filed sufficient evidence of interest in the concession project.

The judge also allowed the aggrieved companies to serve a summons and all other proceedings filed on the African Finance Corporation at its registered office, located in Ikoyi, Lagos, through DHL courier services.

The defendants in the lawsuit are the Federal Government of Nigeria; Attorney General of the Federation; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; the Infrastructure Concessions Regulatory Commission; Nigerian personalized service; Limited Trade Modernization Project; Huawei Technologies Limited; African Finance Corporation and Bergman Security Consultant and Supply Limited being the 1st through 9th defendants respectively.

Judge Ekwo then set June 28 for the hearing of the case.

The two complainants had in their statement recounted how they were proposing to carry out a customs modernization project through several government officials for the benefit of the Nigeria Customs Service.

They claimed that after a series of meetings and negotiations with some of the defendants, President Muhammadu Buhari granted early approval for the e-custom project.

They claimed that on September 2, 2020, the Minister of Finance submitted a memorandum number EC2020/153 to the Federal Executive Council, FEC, the highest decision-making body of the federal government, and obtained approval for the two complainants are granted the concession. .

They further claimed that the trouble started when the Nigeria Customs Service unilaterally reviewed the FEC approval and imposed other conditions, among them the shareholding formula and governance structure.

They claimed that the authority of the NCS to unilaterally review FEC approval was challenged and that the Comptroller General of Customs stood firm.

The plaintiffs claimed that to their surprise, they read in the news that the Nigeria Customs Service had signed a concession agreement with Trade Modernization Project on May 30, 2022, Huawei Technologies Company and African Finance Corporation in total violation of the concession agreement approved by the AGF in collaboration with the Minister of Finance.

They claimed that the Trade Modernization Project was incorporated in April 2022 into the Trade Affairs Commission with one Alhaji Saleh Amodu, a close friend of the Comptroller General of Customs as Chairman.

They argued that the new company just incorporated in April 2022 could not and did not obtain the Full Business Case Certificate of Compliance from the Infrastructure Concessions Regulatory Commission and the approval of the Federal Executive Council to carry out the e-custom project.

They therefore asked the court to declare that the decisions of the federal government and its agents to enter into a concession agreement with Trade Modernization Project, Huawei Technologies Company and African Finance Corporation regarding the electronic customs project are illegal, null and void. , having been committed in flagrant breach of section 2 of the Infrastructure Concessions Regulatory Commission Act 2005.

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