The Minister of Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, on Wednesday explained how disagreements between partners nearly marred the e-customs automation project.
Ahmed spoke in Abuja after the Federal Executive Council (FEC), explaining that though the Council had approved the project in 2020 the disagreement lingered until recently when it was resolved.
She said the delay continued despite the efforts of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to mediate on the issue.
She however added that the disagreement was later resolved leading to the signing of the contract between the Customs Service, the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and China’s Huawei Technologies Limited.
Ahmed said, “The e-Customs project was approved by Council. And there were some challenges that had to do with disagreements among the concession partners.
“Remember that government was not a partner of the concession, it was a group of different investing parties that came together and formed the consortium.
“The Attorney General and Minister of Justice has intervened. There were several number of meetings to try to iron out the difference. So it has to do with shareholders, who has what responsibility. And at the end of the day, I think one of the partners in the concession did not agree with the arrangements.
“So the partner that signed was already in the initial concession. So that one party did not agree with the terms that are signed. And there is a new agreement that had been signed and that partner was reported to have opted out of the concession.
“I haven’t seen the report yet but it was reported to have opted out of being in the concession. So there is a new concession agreement that has been committed. And on the part of the ministry and I know Custom, what it means is that the implementation of e-Customs project can now start with this resolution.”
Ali had during the signing ceremony said the project would lead to full automation of services.
He said, “The journey has been long and torturous. But we have eventually signed the dotted lines. I want to appreciate the ICRC for the commitment to see the project to fruition. I appreciate our partners, Huawei Technologies Limited.
“They have been part of it. We had to go to China a couple of times. Today, we’re going to become a fully digitized service.
“I thank the AFC for financing this project on behalf of the entire Nigerians.
“The success of this project will be on the global map. We are going to hit the ground running. It is a very beneficial project especially as it’ll garner $176 billion for the concession period. We are likely to surpass that. It’s a 20-year project by which time all aspects of it would have been deployed and Nigerians will decide whether to own it or allow it run as a concession.
“Soon, we will invite Mr President to flag off this project but before then, work starts in earnest. There are rumours that it’ll weed off officers, it’s not true. If anything, we have 15,000 officers but we need nothing less than 30,000 to efficiently carry our mandate.
“But we must be all be computer literate. It’ll be a total paperless operation. Our import, export, clearance processes will be completely digitised. We will enhance and sanitise the process. “We will orient everyone to key into it. We are looking forward to triple our finances and the 7% commission for revenue collection is a big deal for us” .