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Nigeria’s cargo tracking plan hits brick wall of corruption

The implementation of an electronic system that enables real-time generation of vital data on ship and cargo traffic in and out of Africa’s biggest economy has been stifled by corruption and internal power struggles, according to leaked documents and extensive interviews with sources familiar with the matter.

Asides the billions of naira that could accrue to the Nigerian government in revenue from cargo tracking on the country’s borders, the electronic system known as International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN), also allows Africa’s top oil-producing country to monitor the exact quantity of daily crude oil exports and tame the menace of oil theft.

The ICTN had an initial attempt at take-off during the late Umaru Yar-Adua/ Goodluck administration who approved a contract between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and an operator named Transport and Port Management System Ltd (TPMS) -Antaser-Afrique.

However, the scheme was abruptly terminated in October 2011 by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, who also chaired a presidential committee on ports reform.

 

Okonjo-Iweala said some importers complained their cargos were already being tracked by the Nigerian Customs Services from origin to destination so there was no reason for the NPA to collect charges on ICTN.

“Upon enquiry, we learned that charges totalled about $6 million. I had never seen this money remitted to the Treasury,” she wrote in her book titled, Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines.

 

“Clearly, the $6 million from the Nigerian Ports Authority from the Cargo Tracking Note not being remitted to the treasury must be going into some influential pockets,” she wrote.

 

Unremitted revenues

BusinessDay gathered that over €45 million was remitted for onward transmission to Nigeria via TPMS, however, there are allegations the funds were not remitted as expected.

 

“We remitted a total of €45,590,618 for onward transmission to Nigeria via TPMS. Later on, we discovered that the funds were not remitted as expected,” a leaked Antaser memo sent to the office of managing director of NPA dated 08 January 2016 said.

It added, “We have the transfer evidence and would be ready to tender same on request.”

This development prompted the Belgian maritime firm to float a hundred million capital base of Antaser Nigeria with the intention of working directly with the government of Nigeria.

Leaked documents from Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), showed discrepancies in revenue from the initial cargo tracking program.

 

According to the document, the program, which ran from March 2010 to November 2011, generated €16.6 millions.

However, concerns were raised regarding missing funds. The federal government was entitled to 60 percent of the revenue, or roughly €10 million. However, documents showed the government only received €6.3 million, leaving a gap of over €3.6 million unaccounted for.

Internal documents from the Ministry of Transport warn of the negative consequences of delaying the cargo tracking system. A memo dated August 26th, 2021, addressed to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), highlights potential losses in revenue, a decline in maritime security, and increased opportunities for cargo tampering and under-declaration.

 

Power play by high-ranked government officials

BusinessDay’s findings revealed another troubling trend of high-ranking former government officials reportedly engaged in a power struggle to secure control of the lucrative contracts associated with the program.

For instance, leaked confidential memos and interviews with sources, showed how Rotimi Amaechi, former minister of transportation, awarded the security-sensitive contract to two companies – MedTech Scientific Limited and Rozi International Limited on August 19 2021– in ways that breached the procurement law and caused the Bureau of Public Procurement to complain about lack of due process.

BusinessDay’s findings showed the two companies awarded the shipping tracking scheme contract have no record of work in the area. MedTech is a healthcare company, and Rozi is a property development firm.

In a memo dated August 26, 2021, BPP said Amaechi did not submit their profiles to enable the procurement agency to determine their competence.

Months later, Amaechi accused Ibrahim Gambari, the former chief of staff to the president, of meddling in the procurement process for the international cargo tracking note scheme, overseen by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council under Amaechi’s authority

 

 

 

In a memo dated October 14 addressed to the former president Muhammadu Buhari, Amaechi said Gambari had consistently sought to impose his interests on issues relating to procurement processes in his ministry.

 

 

 

“I am particularly concerned that his opposition to my Ministry’s initiatives in respect of the ICTN Scheme has increased in tempo after the visit of a certain Miss Bilkisu Gambari, at his behest, to my office with her partners to solicit for the award of this same ICTN contract — which request was not granted,” Amaechi said in his letter to the President.

Data sourced from the Corporate Affairs Commission showed Bilkisu Gambari, is one of the directors of Donnigton Nigeria Limited, a Nigerian company that had written a proposal to Gambari, for the re-introduction of the cargo tracking note service.

 

 

 

Emergence of Antaser Nigeria Limited/Antaser Afrique BVBA

 

 

On February 15 2023, the federal government announced Antaser Nigeria Limited/Antaser Afrique BVBA, a Belgium-based company and other local companies such as MSSRS Velocity logistics and Marine Services, Saham’s Crystal Investments Limited, Winslow Logistics Limited and Equal Logistics Limited as preferred winners for the installation of Electronic Cargo Tracking Notes for seaports nationwide.

“The contract was awarded jointly to the five companies rather than to the lead (technical) Partner as normally is the case in direct procurement,” said an expert familiar with the bid process.

 

The scheme is expected to generate revenues to the federal government ranging from about $90m per annum to a peak of about $235m per annum in direct revenue and much more in indirect revenue, according to Mu’azu Sambo, the immediate past minister of transportation, who said this at the end of a Federal Executive Council meeting in February 2023.

The revenue sharing formula will be 60-40 per cent, with the FG taking the greater share.

 

According to the former minister, the new scheme will tackle several challenges, such as under-declaration, concealment, and wrong classification of important cargo.

 

 

 

Project yet to kick-off

 

 

BusinessDay’s findings showed the implementation of cargo tracking notes is yet to begin despite receiving approval from the previous administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The House of Representatives in March, expressed displeasure over the failure of the management of the Nigeria Shippers Council to commence implementation of the International Cargo Tracking Note.

 

“Why haven’t we started implementing the ICTN. What are we waiting for? Why are we allowing Nigeria to lose so much revenue, and not doing anything?” Abdussamad Dasuki, chairman of, House Committee on Shipping Services said.

 

 

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