A Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained the Federal Government from enforcing or giving effect to the Customs Modernisation Project otherwise known as e-Customs allegedly executed by its agents on May 30, 2022.
The agents who allegedly executed the disputed concession project are the Nigerian Customs Service, Trade Modernisation Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Nigeria Limited, and African Finance Corporation.
The court also issued an order of interim injunction against the Federal Government or its agents acting through the Federal Executive Council from retrospectively ratifying the decisions to concession the e-Customs project to Trade Modernisation Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Limited, and African Finance Corporation.
The restraining order issued last Friday by Justice Inyang Ekwo shall last till the hearing and the determination of a suit brought against the Federal Government by two aggrieved companies.
The two aggrieved companies are E-Customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited which jointly challenged the alleged unlawful and fraudulent concession of the e-customs project to African Finance Corporation.
Counsel to the two aggrieved companies, Anone Usman had, on behalf of the two plaintiffs, argued an ex-parte application in which he prayed the Federal High Court for interim orders against the defendants to protect the interest of his clients.
Justice Inyang Ekwo while ruling on the ex-parte application granted the prayers of the plaintiffs having placed sufficient evidence of interest in the concession project.
The Judge also granted permission to the aggrieved companies to serve a Writ of Summons and all other processes on the African Finance Corporation at its head office, located in Ikoyi, Lagos through DHL courier services.
Defendants in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria, Attorney-General of the Federation, Finance Minister, Infrastructure Regulatory Concession Commission, Nigeria Customs Service, Trade Modernisation Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Limited, African Finance Corporation, and Bergman Security Consultant and Supply as 1st to 9th defendants respectively.
Justice Ekwo subsequently fixed June 28 for hearing in the matter.
The two plaintiffs had in their statement of claims narrated how they proposed to carry out the Customs Modernisation Project through several government officials for the benefit of the Nigerian Customs Service.
They claimed that after a series of meetings and negotiations with some of the defendants, President Muhammudu Buhari granted anticipatory approval for the e- customs Project
According to them, on September 2, 2020, the Minister of Finance presented a memo with the number EC2020/153 to the Federal Executive Council, the highest decision-making body of the Federal Government, and secured approval for the two plaintiffs to be granted the award of the concession.
The plaintiffs said that trouble started when the Nigeria Customs Service unilaterally reviewed the Federal Executive Council approval and imposed other conditions among which are shareholding formulae and governance structure on them.
They said further that the power of the Nigeria Customs Service to unilaterally review FEC approval was protested and that the Comptroller General of the agency stood his ground.
They said they were surprised to read in the news that the Nigeria Customs Service had executed a concession agreement with the Trade Modernisation Project on May 30, 2022, with Huawei Technologies Company and African Finance Corporation in total breach of the Concession Agreement vetted by the AGF in conjunction with the Minister of Finance.
They said that the Trade Modernisation Project Limited was incorporated in April 2022 at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) with one Alhaji Saleh Ahmadu a close friend of the Comptroller General as the chairman.
The plaintiff stated that the new company, having been just incorporated in April 2022 could not have obtained and did not obtain the full business case compliance certificate from the Infrastructure Regulatory Concession Commission (IRCC) and the approval of the Federal Executive Council to carry out the e- custom project.
They, therefore, asked the court to make a declaration that the decisions of the Federal Government and its agent to enter into a concession agreement with Trade Modernisation Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company and African Finance Corporation in respect of the e-customs project is illegal, null and void, having been made in gross violation of Section 2 of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission Act 2005.
They also asked the court to declare that e-Customs HC Project Limited is the approved and rightful concessionaire for the e-customs project as approved by the Federal Executive Council at its meeting of September 2, 2020, and in line with Section 2 of the Infrastructure Regulatory Concession Commission Act.
They applied for an order of the court directing the Federal Government through AGF, Finance Minister, IRCC, and Customs to consulate the e- custom project with the 1st plaintiff, (E-Customs Project Limited) as approved by FEC in its September 2020 meeting.
Besides, the two plaintiffs asked the court to compel the defendants to pay them a sum of N200m as the cost of litigation.
Lagos Orders Closure Of Ladipo Spareparts Market
The Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab, has ordered immediate closure of Ladipo Market, Mushin, for several environmental offences ranging from reckless waste disposal, unhygienic premises, and non-payment of waste bills, among others.
Wahab said that the market would remain closed until the mandatory conditions of redress were met by traders and market stakeholders, adding that it was part of ongoing efforts at instilling compliance in markets around the state.
Wahab, while speaking on the development, underscored the critical importance of environmental hygiene in markets.
He said: “It is imperative that markets in the state adhere strictly to environmental laws and regulations put in place for the well-being of residents.
“The closure of Ladipo Market serves as a stern reminder that no entity, regardless of its size or influence, is above the law.”
He stated that the state government was fully committed to collaborating with market stakeholders, to facilitate necessary adjustments and improvements, to enable them meet required environmental standards, adding that the market would not be reopened for business until set standards were met.
The commissioner said, “Ladipo Market, a prominent hub for automotive spare parts and related services, has been a focal point for environmental concerns due to various activities that contravene established regulations. LAWMA’s intervention is a significant step towards rectifying these issues and bringing the market to compliance.”
In his reaction, the Managing Director/CEO of LAWMA, Dr. MuyiwaGbadegesin, said that the closure was expected to allow for a thorough assessment of the environmental impact of the market’s activities and the implementation of necessary remedial measures, serving as a clear signal that LAWMA would not hesitate to take decisive actions, where and when environmental laws were flouted.
“As Lagos State continues to grow and develop, it is imperative that economic activities are conducted in a manner that is sustainable and environmentally responsible.”
“LAWMA’s recent actions demonstrate the authority’s commitment to this cause. The offensive against environmental infractions will continue till sanity is restored in our markets, while the next stop will be illegal markets,” he stressed.
The closure of Ladipo Market follows a similar action taken against Oyingbo, Alayabiagba, Oke-odo markets, and some sections of Tejuosho Market, for serial infractions.
The decision to shut down those markets underscored the state government’s unwavering commitment to the restoration of environmental sanity in the state.
Tinubu, Sultan Beg NLC, TUC To Shelve Strike
President Bola Tinubu and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, have appealed to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to shelve their planned strike over the removal of fuel subsidy.
The organised labour had fixed Tuesday, October 3, for the commencement of an indefinite strike over fuel subsidy removal.
However, speaking during the public lecture and special Juma’at prayer to mark the 63rd independence anniversary of the country at the National Mosque, Abuja, on Friday, Tinubu appealed to the workers not to embark on the strike.
Represented by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Jibrin Barau, the President reiterated the commitment of his administration to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal.
This was contained in a statement by the media aide to the Deputy Senate President, Ismail Mudashir.
The statement said, “The Sultan has talked about the issue of strike by the NLC. I also call, on behalf of His Excellency, the President, and the entire government, on the labour leaders to shelve the strike.
“Let’s dialogue, let’s sit together, let’s understand ourselves, and let’s look at the prevailing situation in the country. How do we meet this country, the challenges ahead and the current challenges? It is through dialogue that we can solve our problems collectively.”
While stating that the government was new and working hard to bring succour to Nigerians,” Tinubu added, “It (Federal Government) has set aside N500bn and other packages are being unveiled to cushion the effect of the subsidy removal. Therefore, we need to support and pray for the government.”
Earlier, the Sultan had appealed to organised labour to give the Federal Government another chance.
He said, “For God’s sake, for Allah’s sake, anybody planning to go on strike should please give the government another chance. Please, rethink and give the government another chance.”
The Sultan, who said he had been involved in the negotiation of the labour leaders and the government since 2007, said if the NLC and TUC embarked on the strike, it would do more harm than good.
Police Conniving With Land Grabbers, Ogun Assembly Alleges
The Ogun State House of Assembly has accused the police of alleged connivance with land grabbers in the state.
The assembly called on the Inspector General of Police, KayodeEgbetokun, to look into the alleged illegal arrest and detention of innocent Ogun residents on trumped-up charges by the police in connivance with some suspected land grabbers in the State.
The Speaker, Olakunle Oluomo, made the appeal at Tuesday’s plenary when other lawmakers took turns reporting rampant cases of land-grabbing in their constituencies.
The discussion took place when members were contributing to a debate on the second reading of the State Anti-land Grabbing (amendment) bill.
According to the Speaker, hundreds of innocent residents of Ogun are languishing in the various police cells, both at Alagbon in Lagos and the Force Headquarters in Abuja.
This, the Speaker said, was “due to the connivance of land grabbers with some security agents against innocent members of the public.”
Oluomo pleaded with IGP Egbetokun to wade into the matter so as to ensure that innocent Ogun residents are not made to suffer on account of trumped-up charges.
Oluomo advised that any land-related matters should be charged to court, while promising that the new amendment would ensure the constitution of a task force by the state government to handle land matters.
In their various submissions, the lawmakers stressed that the activities of the land grabbers had been affecting the peace, progress, and development of the state, hence the need to take a holistic approach towards addressing the menace.
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