Court Frowns At Undue Interference In $3.1b E-customs Project

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has expressed displeasure over the undue interference of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in the $3.1B suit instituted against it and nine others by aggrieved Companies on the disputed e-Customs Project.

The court had on June 17 restrained the Federal Government from enforcing or giving effect to the controversial Customs Modernisation Project, otherwise known as e-Custom, 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 African Finance Corporation.

The court also issued an order of interim injunction against the Federal Government or its agents, acting through the Federal Executive Council, from retrospectively ratifying the decisions to concession the Custom Modernisation Project also known as the e-custom project to Trade Modernisation Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Limited and African Finance Corporation.

The restraining order issued by Justice Ekwo was to last till the hearing and the determination of the suit brought against the defendants by Messrs E-Customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited.

Counsel to the two aggrieved companies, Mr Anone Usman had argued an ex-parte application in which he prayed the Court for interim orders against the defendants to protect the interest of his clients.

Justice Ekwo, while ruling on the ex-parte application on June 17 had granted the prayers of the plaintiffs having placed sufficient evidence of interest in the concession project.

At Friday’s proceedings, Justice Ekwo directed parties in the suit to go and first explore an out-of-court settlement in the matter.

Due to no objection to the directive from the parties, Justice Ekwo adopted November 7, 8 and 9 for a report of the settlement to be presented to the court and for a hearing in case the out-of-court settlement failed.

Plaintiffs in the suit, E-Customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited had approached the court to among others, declare that the decision by the Federal Government and its agent to enter into a concession agreement with the defendants in respect of the e-Customs project is illegal, having been made in gross violation of Section 2 of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission Act 2005.

They also asked the court to declare that E-Customs HC Project Limited is the rightful concessionaire for the e-customs project as approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, at its meeting on September 2, 2020, and in line with Section 2 of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission Act.

The plaintiffs are also seeking an order directing the Federal Government through the AGF, Finance Minister, ICRC and the NCS to consummate the e- Customs project with the 1st plaintiff, (E-Customs) as approved by FEC in its September 2020 meeting.

Defendants in the suit are the Federal Government, Attorney General of the Federation, Finance Minister, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Nigeria Customs Service, Trade Modernization Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Limited, African Finance Corporation and the Bergmans Security Consultant and Supplies Limited.

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