If feelers from stakeholders are anything to go by, 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 followed as a Federal High Court vacated an earlier order stopping the commencement of the project.
As of press time, the status of the fund could not be confirmed, as the AFC failed to respond to an electronic mail sent to it, but when contacted, Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Timi Bomodi, expressed the hope that the AFC was committed to participation in the project, but was not specific if it had released any funds.
In a telephone interview, Bomodi, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs said: “At this stage, they will release whatever needs to be released to get the project going. And of course, they are working and nothing has stopped.
“There was never a time they stopped from releasing the funds. They have signed an agreement. The $3.1 billion is not the kind of money you just give to someone, because it is big money. It will be done in phases and they are proceeding with all 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.”
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-Customs initiative 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 the AFC.
The court also issued an order of interim injunction against the Federal Government or its agents acting through the Federal Executive Council (FEC) from retrospectively ratifying the decisions to concession the e-Custos project to Trade Modernisation Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Limited and AFC.
The restraining order issued by Justice Inyang Ekwo shall last till the hearing and determination of a suit brought against the Federal Government by the e-Customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited, which challenged the alleged what they described as the “unlawful and fraudulent concession of the e-Customs project to the AFC.
In a related development, another firm that sought a rejoinder to the suit, Adani Mega Systems Limited, alleged that the Federal Government contravened the law by 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 subjudice.
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 NCS.
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 subjudice, pre-emptive of the court’s decision, illegal, unlawful and planned to steal a match against the applicant.”
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