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Litigation, suspicion stall implementation of E- Customs project

CGC, Ali


—As CGC Ali queries sincerity of House of Reps committee

Eyewitness reporter

Suspicion among the leading players in the execution of the E-Customs modernisation project may have stalled the final implementation of the multi-billion dollar project, three years after it was conceptualised.

It could be recalled that in  2019, the Federal government approved the engagement of a consortium of four firms to enter into a 20-year concession arrangement with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) for a Customs modernisation project and establishment of digital and paperless Customs administration.

On September 2nd, 2020, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, ratified the NCS modernisation scheme estimated to cost about $3.1billion.

The presidential initiative on the NCS modernisation or “E-Customs Project” requires the establishment of a digital/paperless customs administration.

The government then approved the engagement of the consortium composed of Bionica Technologies West Africa, Bergan Security Consultants & Suppliers, Africa Finance Cooperation and Huawei to establish a project special purpose vehicle to enter into a 20-year concession arrangement with NCS and ICRC.
However, suspicion and misunderstanding among the Nigeria Customs Service, the Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and the concessionaires have dogged the implementation of the project.
It has also led to court cases from an aggrieved party in the project, Adani Mega System, who felt shortchanged in the process.
At the public hearing hosted by the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Customs and Excise, Banking and Currency and Finance in Abuja on Monday to resolve the logjam, the session was also marred by an exchange of altercation between the Comptroller- General of Customs, Col. Hammed Ali(rtd) who sent a representative and the committee members when the Customs lord makes a pass at the lawmakers.
In his presentation before the committee, the CGC, through his representative, the Assistant Comptroller General (ICT), Galadima Saidu, said he was curious that the House was resuscitating the issues on the project which the same committee had earlier treated and dispensed with.
Ali told the committee that the contractor; Adani Mega System Limited who was supposed to execute the project had been relieved of it.

In his submission, the CGC declared  “investigations carried out by the Service revealed that Messrs Adani Mega Systems Limited outsourced the agreement to an unauthorized third party Adani International Limited (UK) registered four months after the agreement was signed and the Company has since been dissolved ( Copy of the search result is hereby enclosed as Annex A).

“Therefore, the assertion by Adani Mega System Ltd that its international partner has a proven track record, capacity, expertise and competence to execute and operate within the project field covered by the agreement was false and misleading.

“It was upon the realization of this misrepresentation that the Committee on CISS canceled the agreement entered into with Messrs Adani Mega Systems Limited, via a letter Ref:TED/DIR/GAM/GEN/Ol/OZS dated 18th September 2017 (Capy attached as Annex ‘B).

“It is worthy of note also that the House of Representatives Joint Committee On Finance, Customs and Public Petition passed a resolution suspending the Concession Agreement on e-Customs pending the outcome of an investigative hearing.

“The hearing was conducted and the Committee Vide a second letter NAS S/9/CHR/2019/JOINT/002 dated 20th December 2019 (Copy of the letter is hereby attached as Annex C) stated that after due consideration of the process towards the award, has found no breach in the award of the contract for the e-Customs Project.

“The committee recommended that the agreement be finalised and the Consortium awarded the Contract (Copy of the House Committee’s report is attached as Annex D). It is therefore curious that the same House is raising the issue over again.”

Apparently,  the word “curious” as used by the Customs boss which was considered derogatory,  unsettled the lawmakers, as a member of the Committee, Ndukwe Nkole, asked the Customs Comptroller General to withdraw the remark and tender an apology.

“The CG of customs in his address to this parliament, especially in paragraph 4, is very derogatory to the parliament and it is very wrong for a public officer, an appointed officer to address elected representatives, that he’s curious.

“So I demand that the CG of customs must apologise to this parliament for using such a derogatory statement on the parliament.”

However, rather than apologise,  ACG Saidu, who represented the CGC,  merely emphasised the importance of the project until he was prevailed upon by lawmakers before he reluctantly said “I apologise”.

At the same hearing on the “Need to Resolve the Debacle Between Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/Technical Committee on Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) and Adani Mega System Ltd Hindering the Take Off of Nigeria Customs Services E-Customs Modernization Project’, which was boycotted by the CBN, one of the leading parties to the project, the ministry of Finance informed the committee of how court cases have frustrated the take-off of the exercise.
In her presentation, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning,
Zainab Ahmed who was represented by the Director of Home Finance, Stephen Okon, informed the committee that the Finance Ministry was liaising with the Office of Attorney General to ensure quick resolution of the legal drawbacks so as to implement the project.
“There is no doubt, the pending cases are impeding the commencement of the E-Customs Project.
“In order to pave way for the take-off of the project, the ministry is liaising with the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure that the arbitration is speedily concluded.
“This we believe could settle all the pending matters and allow the E-Customs project to commence without further delay”,
However, the Chairman of the committee, Leke Abejide, told the gathering about the concerns of the lawmakers over the delay in the implementation of the project which he claimed is causing Nigeria the loss of about $8.810 billion annually.

He expressed the belief that if the project is properly implemented,  it will go a long way in reducing Nigeria’s vulnerability to external debts and also strengthen its currency.

“The cost of concession implementation over a 20-year period is $3.1 billion American Dollars and the project is projected to generate about $176.2 billion American Dollars within the 20 years Concession period.

“We equally understood the SPV is to recover their investment based on negotiated and staggered recovery strong ratio from the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) and Nigerian Export Supervision Scheme (NESS),” he said.

However, the public hearing was adjourned to March 4, 2022, to allow Adani mega systems, the litigant and the remaining parties such as the CBN to present their own submissions to the committee.

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Tin Can Customs nets N574.3 billion in 2022 —–records N242.365 billion in exports

The Eyewitness reporter
The  Tin Can Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has realized a sum of N574.3 billion in 2022.
The Customs Area Controller (CAC), Tin Can Island Port Command, Comptroller Olakunle Oloyede, disclosed this at a news conference at weekend.

Oloyede said the figure represented an increase of N80.90 billion or 16.39 percent when compared with N493.4 billion recorded in 2021.

“This feat can be attributed to the constant rejigging of the existing measures geared toward sustaining the command’s revenue profile.

“It is as well as utilisation of some disruptive strategic measures such as: periodic capacity building, reshuffling and redeployment of officers using the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis and implementation of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation,” he said.

He noted that the command also ensured robust and continuous stakeholder engagements and collaborations with all sister government agencies and maritime associations.

“These led to timely intelligence sharing, utilisation and voluntary compliance to government’s extant laws by the trading public,” Oloyede said.

He added that the command increased surveillance on declarations made in order to sniff out improper declarations as well as offending items.

He pointed out that the system paid off with the command recording a total of 38 seizures with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N1.85 billion.

“These seizures comprise 763kgs of Colorado (Cannabis Sativa) weighing 345.1kg with a street market value of N714.6 million only as given by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), 5 x 40 containers of used motor tyre (5,060 pieces).

“Also among seized items are 1,150 bales of second-hand clothing, 1,190 cartons of 20 per carton of potassium bromate and baking powder, 11,392 cartons of 1,200 per carton Pharmacol injection chloroquine phosphate 322.5mg.5ml (IV and IM), 206,000 pieces of finished machetes.

“Also, 1,383 cartons of 50 rolls per carton of cigarettes, 650 cartons of 50 pieces per carton of new ladies shoes, 2,666 pieces in 36 pallets of new starter Ex-Premium Inverter Battery, 1,980 cartons of assorted non-alcoholic beverages and 1,048 cartons of Tilda basmati rice,” he said.

Oloyede listed others as 2,594 pieces of ammunition and 20 pieces of arms comprising of one pistol with 611090 (S/W) model JCP 40mm, one used Co2 air pistol with accessories cal 117(4.5m)BM, one marksman repeater pistol, six Mace pepper gun and 10 suspected arms of various types.

He said that the seizures when compared with the 2021 record of 27 seizures with a Debit Note of N607.27 only, show an increase of 11 seizures and N1.24 billion.

He said that the increase in the DPV rate could be associated with increased surveillance and intensified anti-smuggling drive, the high value of seized items and Naira depreciation that led to higher exchange rates on imported items.

“These prohibited items were seized and forfeited to the Federal Government in line with the provision of Sections 46 and 161 of the Customs & Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 45 LFN 2004 and Absolute Prohibition List of CET 2022- 2026.

“The command pertinently acknowledges the prominent roles played by the Customs Intelligence Unit, Valuation Unit, Federal Operations Unit, CGC Strike Force as well as interventions of Sister Regulatory Agencies like the NDLEA, Standards Organisation of Nigeria SON, the Nigeria Police and others in ensuring these seizures and detentions were made.

“A total of 60 suspects were detained in 2022 and were granted administrative bail while the command has 8 cases pending in court,” he said.

Oloyede said the command recorded a significant increase in the Free On Board (FOB) of exports in the period under review to the tune of $589,696,648 (N242,365,322,333.00) as against the $496,075,796 (N141,985,109,159.00) recorded in 2021.

He attributed the increase of 34.4 percent in the FOB to the high quality and value of exported commodities.

“However, the export report shows a decrease in tonnage of export from 1,723,986.8 in 2021 to 336,179.5 in 2022.

“The decrease in tonnage could be connected to current government fiscal policy which prohibited the export of wood and wood products as well as the global unrest with its concomitant economic challenges,” he said

He listed the commodities exported through the command to include: cocoa beans, insecticides, dried ginger, empty bottles, soya beans, cashew nuts, cigarettes, rubbers, cocoa butter, frozen shrimps, copper ingots, aluminum ingots, sesame seeds and other manufactured items.

“Cocoa beans were the highest exported commodity while the legend stout was the least exported commodity.

“The future of export in the command looks brighter as the command in line with the headquarter circular on Export Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) released a Port Order on the Command’s harmonised SOP for the seamless facilitation of Export Trade in strict compliance with Extant Laws and guidelines on Export,” he said.

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”No container will leave Apapa Port without 100 percent physical examination”


declares Auwal Mohammed as he takes over as new Apapa Customs Area controller

—promises to surpass N1 trillion revenue mark

—vows not to facilitate non-compliant traders


The Eyewitness reporter

Despite the deployment of cargo scanning machines, the new area comptroller of the Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Auwal Mohammed, has vowed that no container shall leave the Apapa port without a 100 percent physical examination.

Comptroller Mohammed, who formally took over the mantle of leadership of the command Friday, 27th, January 2023, from Ag. Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs(ACG) Malanta Ibrahim Yusuf, said that the decision to subject all cargo to physical examination was meant to account for every content of container passing through the command and to maximize revenue returns to the Federal Government.

He, therefore, warned non-compliant traders to steer clear of the command as he would not facilitate their trade as he desired to surpass the one trillion revenue mark achieved by the command under the former area controller Yusuf.

”We shall continue to conduct 100 percent physical examination of cargo so that we can account for all the cargo in the containers and to generate more revenue so that we can surpass the one trillion revenue collection that the command has already achieved. No package, no container should leave Apapa port without a proper 100 percent physical examination.” the new Comptroller told his officers who had gathered to welcome him.

He continued ”Today marks another era in the history of the Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service. I am inheriting a well-structured area command. The level of achievements and status achieved under my predecessor will be sustained while I will look for all means to surpass them.

I am ready for the job. I am aware of the big shoe I am stepping into but I am well prepared for it”, Comptroller Mohammad said.

He, therefore, asked the officers to be at their utmost best to cooperate and work with him to sustain and surpass the legacies of his predecessor.

He also solicited the support and cooperation of stakeholders whom he promised to engage with and updated frequently on all issues and policies that will enhance their trade and performance of the command.

The new helmsman also charged all the releasing officers and the image analysts who will be conducting the scanning of cargo to be diligent and exhibit the utmost sense of responsibility and professionalism in their duty so as not to release uncustomed goods.

Mohammed, who was redeployed from Onne Port Area Command when he was the area controller, also enjoined the importers and their agents to be compliant with the cargo clearance procedural processes in order to enjoy a seamless cargo release.

”The goods clearance procedure is simple. Everything starts and ends with declaration and if there is a proper and correct declaration of cargo, there won’t be any need for delay and unnecessary interference with the process”, he admonished.

Earlier, the outgoing Area Controller, Ag. Yusuf, while handling over the operations and procedures of the command to his successor, solicited the support and cooperation of all the officers and other stakeholders for the new helmsman, urging them to avail the new comptroller of the same level of support, guidance, and cooperation and advice they gave him.

He also lauded the untiring efforts of his officers whom he said were instrumental in the monumental achievements recorded by the command under his watch.

Consequently, some officers who excelled in the discharge of their duties were commended and awarded certificates of merit, including the indefatigable Public Relations officer of the Command, CSC Abubakar Usman.



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Hameed Ali, Customs boss, in last minute  frenzied promotion, reshuffle of officers 

CGC, Ali
The Eyewitness reporter
In what appears to be his last major assignment before his second-term tenure as the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service winds down on May 29th, 2023, Hammed Ali, the Customs boss, has undertaken a comprehensive restructuring of the service through mass promotion, a reshuffle of the management team and rejigging of the area Controllers.
Col.(rtd) Ali kickstarted the massive exercise with a promotion galore of officers when on January 5th, 2023, three ACGs were appointed and 1490 officers were promoted to their next ranks by the Customs board upon his recommendation.
Not done yet with what stakeholders described as his parting gift to officers, a week later, the CGC announced the reshuffle of the management team of the service by infusing some newly promoted ACGs into the team while swapping the positions of some old members.
The icing on the cake was when he reshuffled the Area Controllers by rewarding some newly promoted Controllers with juicy Area commands while swapping the positions of the old ones.
The latest exercise, announced Saturday, January 21st, 2023, was the new disposition at the command structure of the service.
In the new posting, Comptroller Timi Bomodi, who was until now, the National Public Relations Officer of the Service and newly promoted to the Comptroller cadre, was posted to head the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) in Lagos, while  Comptroller Dera Nnadi, who had just concluded his management course at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, near Jos, was posted to Seme Area Command as its Area Controller.
Nnadi had a short stint at Ogun Command, Idiroko, as its Area Controller before he left for NIPSS.

In the new posting, Comptroller Auwal Mohammed was moved from Port Harcourt Area 2 command to head Apapa Command vacated by the revenue czar in the service, ACG Malanta Ibrahim Yusuf.

Others include Compt OA Salefu who now heads Western Marine Command Lagos, Compt AM Ibrahim heads PTML Terminal Lagos and Compt M.S Yusuf superintendents over the Muritala Muhammed Airport command in Lagos.

Compt CD Wada goes to Port Harcourt Area1 command as its Area Controller, while M.I Jalo heads Federal Operations Unit Zone B  while B . Mohammed heads Lillypond command in Lagos.

The promotions and reshuffle of officers have however elicited mixed reactions among the Customs officers.

For those who benefited from the parting gift of Hammed Ali, it was a welcome development, but for those who hold the short end of the stick in the exercise, it left a sour taste in their mouth.

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