A civil society organisation (CSO), Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), has accused the federal government of making moves to defy an order of a Federal High Court, which stopped parties from taking further steps in the planned award of the disputed $60m International Cargo-Tracking Note (ICTN) contract.
The disputed contract was initiated by the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, but the court in Abuja ordered that parties should stop further actions till the resolution of a suit on the contract award.
Justice Donatus Okorowo had issued an order restraining the former minister and other parties from taking any further step on the contract award process pending the determination of a suit filed against him and some others in respect of the contract.
However, a recent memo prepared by the Federal Ministry of Transportation indicated that issue of the contract would be tabled before the weekly Federal Executive Council FEC meeting slated for Wednesday for possible approval and award.
The memo sighted by our correspondent, is marked: EC(2022) and was signed by Amaechi on April 12, 2022, but received at the office of the Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Affairs Office on April 20, 2022.
The memo is titled: “Memorandum for approval for the implementation of International Cargo Tracking Note in Nigeria through public private partnership arrangement.”
It reads in part: “The purpose of this memorandum is to seek the consideration and approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the implementation of International Cargo Tracking Note In Nigeria by Messrs MTS Cargo & Logistics Limited through Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) Public Private Partnership.
“It is an arrangement at an initial capital Investment currently modelled at the sum sixty million dollars (US$60,000,000) to be funded 100% through equity by the company for a concession period of 15 years.”
It added that the arrangement provides for “a revenue sharing ratio of 92.5per cent: 7per cent in favour of the Federal Government represented by the Nigerian Shippers Council and Private Consortium respectively: after deduction of processing cost as well as the Full Business Case (FBC) for the project. ”
The plaintiff in the suit before the Federal High Court, the Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER) stated, in a fresh motion, that Amaechi was still working behind the scene to have the contract process concluded while its suit is pending.
CASER had, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1587/2021, accused Amaechi of among others, of manipulating the contract award process in favour of two local and inexperienced firms – Medtech Scientific Limited and Rozi International Nigeria Limited, who are also defendants in the case.
The group demanded that the present procurement for ICTN done by Amaechi be discarded and a transparent one be carried out by the proper agency.
The new memo read in part “The Honourable Minister of Transportation had misadvised the President to approving three different formats for a single procurement and finally ended up with an anticipatory approval that was simply designed to foreclose any proper procurement process, shut out procurement agencies and handpick companies, using urgency as an excuse.
“Starting with international competitive bidding, it went to selective bidding, to direct procurement and finally an anticipatory approval from Mr President.
“Procurement process as stipulated by our laws was not followed by FMOT, and BPP clearly highlighted this in several memos, including it’s response to the FMOT’S request for a “no objection” certificate. Find attached..(BPP’S letter to FMOT)
“No due diligence was done on the companies handpicked by BPP, as their details were never forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Transportation, and this was also highlighted in BPP’S memo.
“No security check was carried out by the office of the National Security Adviser before presenting the companies to Mr President, considering the extremely security sensitive nature of the ICTN and despite several letters to that effect by the National Security Adviser.
“Because the President had been earlier misadvised to approving that Shippers Council implement the ICTN project, the concept and scope which was presented in both the OBC and FBC does not in any way give Nigeria the the value anticipated from this project, which is to provide alternative cargo information from that provided by the shipping agents/Consignee, for both import and export.
“The derivatives from this are; enhanced security, safety and a complete block of revenue leakages in our ports.
Nigerian Shippers Council by their charter are to represent the interest of the shippers and dont have statutory authority and operational structure to handle ship and cargo at the ports, therefore cannot receive manifest.
“The companies handpicked (Medtech Scientific Limited and Rozi International Ltd) have no capacity whatsoever to handle such a project. Medtech Scientific Limited being a medical equipment supply company, and Rozi International Ltd being a construction company.
“Even worse, The Federal Ministry of Transportation has severally “VARIED” Mr President’s anticipatory approval as shown below.
“There has been clear additions to the list of companies approved by Mr President, namely Frabemar UK/SRL and Zayeco General Enterprises Ltd.
“There has been a change in the format of the approval from that of a technical partner (Medtech Scientific Limited) and a local content partner (Rozi International Ltd), to forming a consortium.
“The supposed technical partner as approved by Mr President has not only only gotten another technical partner (Frabemar UK/SRL), but has itself Changed it’s name to Mediterranean Technologies (Medtech) scientific ltd, which is legally a new entity.
“The concession in itself is a fraud, as Cargo Tracking Note is an existing digital platform, already used by several countries, which Nigeria has to simply subscribe to and not attempt to build a new one.
“This in itself defeats the urgency excuse consistently used by the Hon Minister of Transportation to foster this fraud. It is important to note that it is technically and financially not viable to build a new platform for Nigeria alone!
“Nigerian Shippers Council and ICRC were used as preferred vehicles for this flawed procurement of ICTN project because the Hon Minister of Transportation found them amenable to his manipulations, since both agencies have absolutely no role in this project.
“Shippers Council do not have the necessary capability as earlier stated, and there is nothing for ICRC to concession in an existing global digital application already in use in several countries.
“Finally, there is an existing court order issued against the Honorable Minister of Transportation and others on the 20th of December 2021which is still subsisting, irrespective of the publicly known fact that the same Honourable Minister of Transportation have done everything to vary the order, including a failed attempt at changing the judge, without any luck.
“Please note that the Honourable Minister of Transportation and others are already in contempt of court ”
The group asked lawyers in the Federal Executive Council FEC to properly counsel members on the need to respect the rule of law and allow the court dispense with the suit before taking any step against the court order.
Other defendants in the case, in which the plaintiff are praying the court to void the selection of Medtech and Rozi, are the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF)
During a recent hearing in the case, lawyer to the plaintiff, Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN) accused Amaechi of being in contempt, noting that he has taken some fundamental steps in respect of the contract award despite a pending order for maintenance of status quo issued on January 22, 2022.
Following the complaint by Mustapha, Justice Okorowo elected to first deal with the issue of alleged contempt and ordered parties to file necessary processes.
Though the case was transferred to another judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed for hearing during the court’s last Easter holiday on the request by Amaechi, it has now been returned to Justice Okorowo for hearing at a date to be fixed this month.