The sudden award of a Cargo Tracking contract by the Ministry of Transportation to Antaser, a company based in Belgium has continued to generate protest and shock in Nigeria’s business circles.
Officials conversant with the development said the award of the contract contravened a 2018 Executive Order by President Muhammadu Buhari.The order was titled: “Planning and Execution of Project,Promotion of Nigerian Content in Contracts and Science, Engineering and Technology”.
Consequently, the issue is generating ripples after the contract was awarded. The contravention may get the Nigerian Government into a long-drawn litigation.
Newsdiaryonline learnt that Donnington Nigeria Limited, which had earlier gone through the due process before award of contract to new contractors has been furious, and it has registered its protest, through official and legal channels, to boot.
Newsdiary only learnt that, Donnington Nigeria Limited’s disquiet and anger is not unconnected to the steps the company had taken towards securing the contract and the fund sunk into it.
One of the documents sighted chronicled the sequence of events concerning the now controversial contract thus: “On May 4th, 2021, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, assented to the request of the Executive Chairman of EFCC to immediately commence the Advanced Cargo Declaration (ACD)/Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) process for all crude oil exports from Nigerian shipping terminals.
“Consequently, on May 10th, 2021, an Executive Order was issued from the Office of the President and Commander-in-Chief directing the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMoF), in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources (FMoPR) to commence the immediate implementation of the said Advanced Cargo Declaration (ACD)/Cargo Tracking Note (CTN).
”On July 29th, 2021, a consultancy proposal was submitted, alongside technical presentations, by Donnington Nigeria Limited and her technical partners, Vortexa UK, and DP World UAE, to the Federal Ministries of Finance, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigeria Customs Services. This was followed by a joint request from the FMoF and FMoPR to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for a “No Objection” certificate in order for them to proceed with the award of the single-source contract to Donnington Nigeria Limited, in view of the national security issues involved.
“BPP responded that the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMoT) has made a request for a similar “No Objection” certificate on the same services. To avoid what they see as possible “duplication,” the BPP advised the FMoF and FMoPR to request legal clarification from the FMoJ on the issue.
“On January 7th, 2022, the FMoPR formally sent a letter to the Federal Ministry of Justice (FMoJ) requesting clarification and validation of the Presidential Executive Order as well as the mandate for the FMoPR.
“The FMoJ responded on January 11th, 2022, with a clarification that “only the FMoPR has the mandate to implement Crude Oil Services.” And FMoFBP has the mandate for Container Cargo Tracking.The FMoJ further advised the BPP to “proceed in accordance with the request” from the FMoFBP and FMoPR.
“Following this “clarification and validation” from the FMoJ, the FMoFBP and FMoPR jointly and separately submitted a request to BPP to be granted a certificate of no objection to retain the services of Messr. Donnington Nig and her technical partner Vortexa UK.
On “1st March 2022 BPP replied to the FMoPR request for no objection and raised a few observations from the submission by FMoPR and requested for additional documentation from Donnington Nigeria Limited. It is worthy to note that all observations were addressed, and all supporting documents submitted by FMoPR to BPP on the 21st March 2022.
“In the same letter, BPP implied that the Crude Oil Services component of the Advanced Cargo Declaration (ACD)/Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) process is a “duplication” of the Pre-Shipment services being provided by the FMoF.
“It is pertinent to note that the two services are completely different from each other. For the avoidance of doubt, their respective responsibilities are as follows:
“Crude Oil Tracking Services – Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources (FMoPR):
(a) Provision of accurate shipping data;
(b) The use of electronic surveillance for monitoring and verifying crude oil and gas export and refined petroleum imports on transit from port of loading to port of destination. This is for the purpose of curbing crude oil theft, diversion, and illegal trans-shipment and thus aid in mitigating the problem of revenue loss in the oil and gas industry.
“Pre-Shipment Inspection – Federal Ministry of Finance (FMoF):
(a) The verification of the stated quantity of the merchandise for import or export.
(b) Checking for the quality or any defects; Ensuring that the products meet the safety and quality requirements of the destination market.
(c) Issuing reports for import and billing.
” In spite of the earlier clarification and validation by the Justice Minister /AGF the BPP proceeded to solicit further clarification from the presidency.
” The Presidential Executive Directive to implement the ACD/CTN was issued in May 2021. The Ministries that were mandated in the Executive Order to implement it (FMoF and FMoPR) have all played their assigned roles. The FMoJ has equally played a part by intervening to give a legal “clarification” of the mandate. “Donnington Nigeria Limited and her overseas technical partners have provided all the documents that were demanded of them and fulfil all the requirements of the BPP’s “observations.”
“Despite meeting all the demands of the BPP and other government regulatory agencies, the sensitive security nature of the project and the urgency attached to the implementation by Mr. President, BPP is yet to issue the certificate of no objection to the FMoPR
However, “In a letter dated 16th August 2022 and signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, there was attempt to truncate the on-going process by FMoFBP and FMoPR, contrary to the Executive Directive and the subsequent validation of the AGF. As a result of the recent developments and in order to stop the abandonment of the ongoing procurement process, Donnington Nigeria Limited has filed a case at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
According to the document sighted, “Donnington Nig Ltd (is) therefore using this medium to emphasise that the mandate for Container Cargo Tracking and Revenue Generation lays with Nigerian Custom Services under the supervision of the FMoFBP and Crude Oil Tracking is solely the responsibility and mandate of the FMoPR.”
Donnington Nig Ltd also appealed to stakeholders to intervene and bring the attention of Mr. President to the delay in implementing the Presidential Directive of 4th May, the eventual national security risk resulting in illegal importation of weapons and crude oil theft and instruct the Chief of Staff and the BPP to promptly ensure the issuance of the certificate of no objection to FMoFBP and FMoPR so that Donnington/Vortexa can commence work on this vital national security project immediately.”
In addition to the sequence of events, Newsdiaryonline reports that the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari’s memo to three Ministers paved way for the involvement of other contractors when he wrote: “The ICTN schemes implemented historically covers all kinds of cargos including Nigerian crude oil exports. It would amount to duplication of efforts and additional bureaucracy for government to implement a dedicated ICTN scheme for crude oil cargos only.
“It is imperative that a credible and transparent procurement process is adopted for the selection of capable Agents to implement the ICTN in Nigeria.
The memo from the Chief of Staff to the President directed that the Minister of Transportation has been approved to oversee the selection of credible Agents/ partners.
Gambari also directed that the Minister of Justice should ensure a quick determination of all the cases which may stall all the processes.He also ruled that “this approval supercedes all earlier approvals on this matter..”
However, Donnington Nigeria Ltd, is relying on the courts and the intervention of stakeholders to ensure justice.Will the Ministry reverse its choice? Only time will tell.