The smoke of the fraudulent multi-billion dollar International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) contract perpetrated at the Federal Ministry of Transportation is still smoldering and seething as the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has been petitioned over the scandal.
Also petitioned by a civil society organization — the Citizen Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER) —Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)..
In the centre of the mess is the Minister, who calls the shots in the ministry, Mr Chibuike Amaechi and his collaborator, a former Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, after he successfully deceived President Muhammadu Buhari into approving the project without recourse to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Persecondnews.com in breaking the story last month reported that Amaechi had written to the President for “anticipatory approval’’, asking him to warn the Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari to steer clear of his ministry, accusing him of meddlesomeness.
The minister also spurned the National Security Adviser, retired Major-General Babagana Monguno’s invite to a meeting with the relevant agencies under his ministry to discuss security and economic implications of project and facilitate appropriate decision-making which the minister rejected with disdain.
The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) was also not spared by the minister who ignored the agency’s insistence for competitive bidding to select the service provider.
Instead of following the due process, Amaechi singlehandedly picked a medical company in Nigeria without professional competence and knowledge in International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN), bypassing known procurement laws.
A whistle-blowing initiative on the implementation of ICTN by the Civil Society Against Business Malpractices (CSABM) – maritime practitioners and watchers — in a 14-page petition dated September 9, 2021 and signed by Aliyu Suleiman (Chairman) and James Zaki (Secretary), alerted of what it called an “unfolding ill-designed plan by persons and institutions to foist a fake ICTN on the country’’, pointing out that Pres. Buhari was “misguided to granting an anticipatory approval for a direct appointment of a puppet company.’’
It said the approval was meant to “intimidate the system, quench any form of assessment of these companies and possibly bypass known procurement laws.’’
The maritime practitioners raised issues of terrorism and proliferation of small arms in selecting or evaluating prospective service provider of the CTN project.
“The manner in which this last anticipatory approval was gotten from Mr President shows inherent impunity, disregard to authority, abuse of legal/procurement processes and absolute lack of integrity on the persons entrusted with authority without any care that this amounted to misleading the President.
“The essence of all these desperate moves is to award this contract to a puppet company that will merely issue duplicate cargo information (copy of ship manifest) that will now be called CTN to importers. This amount to exploitation and fraud as no real service of CTN is provided.
“It does not matter to these persons (Amaechi and others) and their cohorts that the action will compromise the safety, security and economic gains in maritime trade,’’ says CSABM.
“NSC (through the minister) has perfected plans to appoint one Messers Medtech Scientific Ltd in partnership with Rozi International Nigeria Ltd as new agent/technical partner to implement the CTN scheme in Nigeria.
“A zoom into the companies shows that they have absolutely NO experience and knowledge of the service …Medtech is a medical equipment supply company registered and operating here in Nigeria. The company has neither implemented CTN for any country nor possesses any known platform to do so.
“Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) on October 22, 2020 directed the ministry to adopt international competitive bidding for engagement of a new firm to implement CTN. On May 5, 2021, the ministry (minister) requested that Mr. President approve that NSC conduct ICB.
Amaechi, using the same modus operandi in getting President Buhari’s approval to suspend and later sack the Managing Director of/CEO of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman in May 2021, also got another “midnight approval’’ on August 19, 2021 on the procurement of International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) scheme in Nigeria thereby circumventing FEC which should approve a contract of such magnitude.
The minister, in the four-paragraph letter to the President dated August 19, 2021, stated:“I am requesting that Mr President reconfirms his earlier approval and direct that the ministry engage Messers Medtech Scientific Ltd in partnership with Rozi International Nig. Ltd to be presented to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to avoid delay in the implementation of ICTN.’’
ICTN, an electronic cargo verification system, monitors the shipment of seaborne cargo and enables a real-time generation of vital data on ship and cargo traffic in and out of Nigeria.
Persecondnews.com recalls that the Federal Government had in 2010 and 2015 in the President Goodluck Jonathan administration recorded a failed attempt to implement the CTN because of incompetency and shady dealings of some firms involved in the project.
However, CASER in a letter dated Nov. 2, 2021 and addressed to Osinbajo, who doubles as the Chairman, National Economic Council comprising state governors, some ministers and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said it was constrained to call the VP’s attention to the ongoing implementation of ICTN recently approved by Pres. Buhari, pointing out that it is “fraught with issues of official malfeasance, fraudulent misinterpretation, and brazen violation of known legal standards of public procurement.
It said in a seven-page letter signed by the Executive Director and Lead Advocate, Mr Frank Tierie and obtained by Persecondnews.com :“In the foregoing week, the Nigerian media have been awash with reports of the about said acts by certain unscrupulous public servants in cohorts with some desperate entities that are calculated to shortchange Nigerian people and to subvert the Federal Government’s economic policy of ease of doing business especially in the Nigerian maritime sector.
“Documents made available to us from our inquiries and willing whistleblowers show that the current attempts to implement the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) in Nigeria and domiciling its management and operations in the Nigerian Shippers Council is driven only by the corrupt enrichment of a few persons who have mastered the art of deliberate manipulation of government processes for personal gain.
“We concur with the published reports that the approvals by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari as anticipated approvals to the Nigerian Shippers Council were based on highly criminal misrepresentation to which we suspect that the Honourable Minister of Transportation may just have been a victim, yet we maintain in the public interest that such nefarious fiasco of the failed implementation of the ICTN as it was in 2012 with millions of dollars accruing to Nigeria that are yet to be recovered but would open a floodgate of revenue loss to the Federal Government through the inaccurate value of imports and exports together with a highly compromised security of international cargo in Nigerian seaports.’’
CASER, therefore, said the Nigerian Shippers Council is not suitable to manage the ICTN in Nigeria, pointing out that Section 3 of the Shippers Council Act clearly spells out the functions of the Council which are generally meant to protect the interest of shippers and to serve as an interface between government and shippers in general.
“By the Establishment Act, the Nigerian Shippers Council is precluded from superintending and monitoring the movement of cargo from nearly four hundred port destinations to and from Nigeria for the purpose of correctly collecting tax revenue for the government and to secure Nigeria from manipulation of cargo documents while in transit to allow massive contraband like arms and ammunition to enter Nigeria illegally.
“The choice of MedTech Scientific Ltd was without any bidding whatsoever. Neither were competency and corporate compliance tests conducted by the BPP on it nor was the required security vetting by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) carried out on its structure and make-up all in flagrant violation of the Public Procurement Act and standards.
“It is indeed strange for Nigeria to award such implementing the service to a company that does not have the global reach requisite technology, cognate experience and manpower capacity to implement the ICTN in Nigeria.
“To cover up the glaring misfit of MedTech Scientific Ltd and its loud deficiencies, further infractions of patching up the grave blunder by the self-serving elements as the Nigerian Shippers Council who are bent on foisting MedTech Scientific Ltd as the implementing as the implementing agent of the ICTN, a certain Rozi International was chosen as the local partner to MedTech Scientific Ltd purportedly for the purpose of building local content by way of technology.
“This indeed does not only open another can of worms to be shown hereunder but also shows how ignorant the purveyors of this fraudulent exercise are concerning how the system works.
“A web portal that coordinates security and revenue collection in hundreds of originating and destination seaports worldwide is not a technology that can be transferred but rather owned. Nigerian Shippers Council and MedTech Scientific Ltd are not only ignorant of the ICTN scheme but they also neither own nor are able to operate the ICTN infrastructure.
“The latest face-saving measure by the syndicate in appointing Frabenar UK Ltd as the foreign technical partner to stem the growing tide of condemnation among some conscientious public servants especially at the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) that has come to seal the grand scale corruption that is about to be perpetrated against Nigeria through the ICTN scheme.
“It must be resisted! No matter how far they have gone even in misrepresenting fact (practically lying) to the President, they must be stopped or else the Federal Government will find the consequences of allowing this malfeasance to be too costly to bear of revenue loss and security concerns,’’ CASER stated.
The civil society organization, however, threatened to challenge in court what it called “these forms of public corruption and abuse of official privilege’’ if no action is taken to address the “glaring infractions of public procurement standards in the interest of the Nigerian economy and safety’’.
“It is, therefore, our further hope that you exercise your constitutional powers pursuant to Sections 18 and 19 of the Third Schedule, Part I of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and call to order the Honourable Minister of Transportation who can no longer pretend to be unaware of the infractions being perpetrated under the watch of his ministry.
“He (Amaechi) cannot feign ignorance having been used to obtain anticipatory approval from the President. He must be made to retrace his steps and ensure full compliance to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act and the concerns of the BPP and the Office of the National Security Adviser.
“We further urge Your Excellency to question the relevant authorities particularly the Federal Ministry of Transportation, the Nigerian Shippers Council and the EFCC about the fate of the unremitted sum of Three Million, Six Hundred and Twenty Seven Thousand, One Hundred and Seventy Euro and Twenty Two Cents (E3, 627, 170. 22) and possibly more accruable to the Federal Government of Nigeria from both the implementation of the CTN and the second implementation that was fraudulently implemented by the Nigerian Shippers Council by the past Executive Secretary,’’ CASER said.
In a similar letter to the ICPC, CASER called for discreet investigation with serious dispatch in the interest of the people and government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the flagrant violation of extant procurement laws and standards in the procurement of the service of Cargo Tracking Note (CTN).
It noted that the failure to implement the CTN has made Nigeria to lose billions of dollars in revenue because of unscrupulous importers who connive with “unpatriotic and corrupt port officials to under-declare value of imports’’.
“Fraudulent companies who were earlier engaged but failed to sustain the CTN process in Nigeria have refused to date to remit hundreds of millions of dollars and Euros accruable to the Nigerian government and currently undergoing investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“We believe that the act of waiving due process for the procurement of a sensitive national service as the CTN that has been attributed to the President is antithetical to his stance on anti-corruption and transparency in governance.
“We are disappointed that the BPP despite having been quite thorough in applying its own standards that are according to the Public Procurement Act, it failed to insist that it could not issue a certificate of `No Objection’ to the engagement of MedTech Scientific Ltd and Rozi International Nigeria Ltd as the new agents/partners to implement the ICTN scheme in Nigeria.
“It knew full well that the procurement of such specialized services of critical national concern ought to have been subject to an international competitive bidding process. The BPP was most certainly bullied into issuing a certificate of `No Objection’ to the said procurement of services when as a matter of fact the profiles of the said companies as to their proficiency specialist services providers were not submitted to it.’’
CASER stressed that the implementation of the CTN in Nigeria is very critically urgent for Nigeria, citing the reported case of thousands of pump action rifles that were registered in Turkey and destined by sea for Nigeria only for the manifest to be changed mid-journey and the guns entered Nigeria and were cleared as spare parts.
It urged that investigation be carried out to determine the circumstances surrounding the waiver and disregard of procurement standards which not only amounts to favouritism but poses a great danger to national security and continuation of siphoning revenues meant for the Federation Account into private pockets.
“We are confident in the patriotic resolve of the ICPC in preventing corrupt practices and to bring to book where acts of corruption have been perpetrated.
“Our member and legal representatives will be very much willing to assist the ICPC with further information and explanations when called upon in furtherance to the investigation of this petition,’’ Persecondnews quotes from the five-page letter addressed to the ICPC Chairman dated Oct. 26, 2021.