The officers described the customs modernisation that is already a subject of litigation in the Federal High Court as a channel to waste government revenue.
Faulting the award of the modernisation concession, the group alleged that the company handling it was hurriedly registered, without the required technical experience, and could set the gains achieved by the service backward.
According to them, Customs is presently one of the most automated government agencies in the country with a homegrown Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) that only requires an upgrade to meet the demands of current reality.
They added that NCS is the most modernised customs administration in West and Central Africa handling the highest volume of trade relying on a blend of technology and human expertise.
They claimed that using the existing modernisation template of the service, the NCS has been able to move from generating N800 billion in 2015 to collecting N2 trillion in 2022 without the controversial concession.
The group said over 3,500 officers of the Nigeria Customs Service have been trained while 150 of them are presently undergoing technical training on various aspects of modernisation required for trade.
Bionica Technologies had dragged the federal government and the Nigeria Customs Service before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
Also sued by Bionica are the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; the Infrastructure Concession & Regulatory Commission (ICRC); Trade Modernisation Project Limited (TMPL); Huawei Technologies (Nigeria); Bergmans Security Consultants and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).
Bionica accused the defendants of illegally replacing it as the lead promoter of the Customs modernisation project earlier approved by former President Muhammadu Buhari
In a memo dated September 17, 2019, signed by the late Chief of Staff to the former President, Abba Kyari, the Ministers of Finance and Justice were informed that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the engagement of Bionica Technologies West Africa (lead sponsor), Bergmans Security Consultant & Supplies Ltd (co-sponsor), Africa Finance Corporation (lead financier) and Huawei (lead technical service provider) to establish a special purpose vehicle to enter a 20-year concession arrangement with the Nigeria Customs Service and the ICRC for the Customs modernisation project with the aim of establishing a paperless Customs administration, the so-called e-Customs.
After President Buhari’s approval, the relationship between Bionca and Bergmans went sour.
On May 17, 2022, the Nigeria Customs Service announced the signing of the e-Customs public-private partnership contract with Trade Modernisation Project Limited (TMPL).
The announcement was a sequel to the incorporation of TMPL as the new SPV for the Customs modernisation project rather than the E-Customs (HC) Project Limited registered by Bionica and approved by the Federal Government for the project.
Bionica was not included in TPML, which was registered on April 7, 2022 – less than eight weeks before it replaced E-Custom (HC) Project Limited as the SPV for the e-Customs project. The officials of Bionica allege that TMPL’s lead sponsor, Bergmans did not participate in the project development and bidding phase but was somehow brought into the project in 2018 by the former Customs Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali.
“Our service is a regimented institution with sensitive roles to play in national security and economy and should not be distracted by an endless fight between companies struggling to benefit from modernising us.
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