From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A civil rights group, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), has warned the federal government against any compromise with Public Procurement Laws in the implementation of the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) to improve the country’s security and boost its revenue base.
The body maintained that it is only strict compliance with relevant laws and a deep sense of patriotism that would ensure accurate and efficient collection of imports from the new policy regime.
In a statement on Thursday in Abuja by its Executive Director, Barrister Frank Tietie,
CASER pleaded with the Ministries of Transportation, Finance, Petroleum, Office of the National Security Advisers and the Chief of Staff to the President to act in the national interest on the issue of the Cargo Tracking policy.
Specifically, the rights group canvassed that the Ministries and the affected government agencies must resist opportunists by ensuring total compliance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act in the matter.
The group noted with displeasure that the implementation of such an all-important national security project with high revenue-yielding potentials has suffered massive setbacks on account of unscrupulous businessmen and Nigerian public officials who were determined to circumvent the public procurement guidelines.
Among the setbacks, the group disclosed that illegal weapons are daily streaming into Nigeria undetected through its ports while import and export agents are shortchanging the Nigerian government of accruable revenue from correct charges.
The statement read in part; “extremely worrisome is the level of crude oil theft mostly carried out by shippers in conjunction with unscrupulous government officials and several inspections agents, who often underreport crude oil volumes at various export terminals for corrupt enrichment.
“Therefore, when recently, in 2021, the Federal Ministry of Transportation attempted to implement the ICTN without due process, by handpicking certain companies that neither possessed any capacity nor an iota of cognate experience in the implementation of ICTN, CASER raised an alarm to the President, Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
“Thus, CASER had to initiate legal proceedings at the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1587/2021 when it became apparent that the erstwhile Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi was determined to use both his political influence and official privilege to override necessary inter-agency checks and the express provisions of the Public Procurement Act in the appointment of implementing agents for such a highly sensitive national security project as the ICTN.
“Consequently, the Federal High Court granted an order of injunction, restraining the Minister of Transportation himself and the Ministry from appointing such companies to implement the ICTN pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed by CASER, seeking to set aside and nullify any such purported appointment of implementing companies on the ground of non-compliance with the applicable provisions of the Public Procurement Act which require transparent bidding where necessary, together with the capacity and competence in the implementation of ICTN.
“While the Federal Government is attending to the issues raised in the earlier alarm and subsequent suit by CASER, it is interesting to note that a certain Donnington Nigeria Ltd is bent on perpetrating the cycle of cronyistic opportunism and incompetence which have bedevilled the earlier failed attempts to implement the ICTN in Nigeria.
“The Nigerian authorities must refuse to be blackmailed in any way by a company that submitted an unsolicited proposal to it, claiming that it is capable of providing the services of the implementation of ICTN services in Nigeria.
“The Federal Government must ask questions and carry out the necessary due diligence about any company that not only claims to provide such sensitive service but such a company must have participated in the various forms of bidding as contained in the Public Procurement Act.
“Therefore it is not enough and it must be guarded against where a company merely peddles insider connections in government and expect to be given such a sensitive national security contract as can be deducible from the media report of the 30th of October.
“CASER frowns at the reported suit that has been instituted by the said Donnington Nigeria Ltd against the Federal Government over its proposal to it on the application of ICTN to crude oil exports and imports. CASER views the suit as being without basis and an attempt by a business and profit-driven persons to use the processes of the court to blackmail the government in a matter that concerns the security and well-being of all Nigerians.
“Therefore, CASER strongly contemplates, in the public interest, to making an application to join the Donnington suit at Federal High Court with a view to continue its advocacy for strict compliance to the Public Procurement Act as its intent is to pursue all its set out causes to a logical conclusion”, the statement said.