Security - FG Waives N10.8 Billion for Chinese CCTV Contractor
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) While the Federal Government seeks ways to conserve funds, including the planned withdrawal of fuel subsidy, investigations have shown that N10.8 billion worth of goods were given away as waiver to a Chinese firm handling the provision of the security contract for Nigeria.
This forms part of the shocking findings by leadership weekend on the controversial $470 million CCTV contract awarded by the Federal Government of Nigeria to the Chinese firm, ZTE Corporation.
Leadership had exclusively reported on the controversial National Public Security Communication System (NPSCS) project which has a secret clause in which ZTE Corporation insisted on the secrecy of its contract with the Government of Nigeria.
The secrecy clause was contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Nigerian Government and the Chinese telecommunications firm.
It also reported among other things; that the government secured a $600 million loan from the Chinese EXIMBANK without the approval of the National Assembly.
In a reaction to the report, the House of Representatives on December 7, directed its Committees on Police Affairs, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Public Procurement as well as Aids, Loans and Debt Management, to investigate the controversial contract.
This was based on a motion brought by a member from Benue State, Hon. Hassan Saleh, who complained that the materials used for contract were substandard and at variance with those used by the same firm in Ghana, Senegal, Morocco and Malaysia.
Saleh had told the House, "The National Public Security Communication System is based in a system known as Global Trunking Architecture which provides telecommunication and it could be used to monitor elections and verification of election results as well as disaster management and control."
He, however, insisted that the alleged insistence by ZTE that the contractual details of the project should not be made public was a clear violation of the doctrines of transparency and accountability and an infringement on the laws of Nigeria.
But fresh investigations have shown that the Federal Government granted a N10.8b import waiver to the Chinese firm to enable it to source for and bring in the equipment required for the project.
In a letter dated October 15, 2010, the Chinese telecommunications giant had requested the Federal Government, through the Minister of Police Affairs, to grant it waivers on duties, levies and sundry taxes.
However, the waiver was communicated to the firm in a letter dated, February 10, 2011, with reference MPA/PSD/ST/075/PRP/1 and signed by the Director of Police Services in the Ministry of Police Affairs, Mr. Sabo Ahmed.
This was based on an exemption certificate earlier issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance through the Budget Office of the Federation.
In a letter addressed to the Minister of Police Affairs, dated January 14, 2011 and with reference No: BO/RVE/12237/S.5/VHB/357, former Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganga exempted ZTE Corporation from sundry taxes and levies.
The approval which was granted based on the provisions of Part 1, item 11 (i) (a) of the Common External Tariff (CET) of 2008 - 2012, would be valid for a period of one year with effect from August 14, 2010.
The letter was copied to the Comptroller-General of Customs, the Central Bank Governor, the Managing Director, Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited, the Managing Director, Global Scanning System, and the Managing Director, SGS Inspection Services Nigeria Limited.
Another dimension to the controversial contract is that the Chinese firm might not have carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before embarking on the project as required by the law.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of checking the potential impact, whether positive or negative, of a proposed project on the natural environment.
But an investigation into documents relating to the contract, particularly the MoU; has shown that neither the Federal Government nor the Chinese firm included EIA as part of the conditions for the implementation of the contract.
Based on the provisions of Section 2 (1-2) of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, Cap E 12, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, an EIA is expected to be carried where any of the three tiers of government is embarking on a project that would significantly affect the environment.
The law states in part, "The public or private sector of the economy shall not undertake or embark on public or authorise projects or activities without prior consideration, at an early stages, of their environmental effects.
"Where the extent, nature or location of a proposed project or activity is such that is likely to significantly affect the environment, its environmental impact assessment shall be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of this Act."
But a telecommunications expert who pleaded anonymity disclosed tht the NPSCS project as conceived and implemented by the government was not in the best interest of Nigeria.
First, he said the project does not make room for what he described as redundancy, a term used in describing an alternative platform created to take care of a possible failure in a telecommunications network.
He said, "The first flaw in the project is the absence of redundancy. If you create network, the first thing to consider is what happens to me if that network fails? If there is a network failure, where is my fall-back platform? If it is an independent network, it will not have that fall-back platform.
Another telecommunications expert, Mr. Livinus Obasi, also criticised the project noting that the Nigerian Police as presently constituted cannot operate a dedicated network.
He pointed out that a telecommunications firm in the country had provided a dedicated network for the police but the police failed to meet the contractual agreement it entered into with the service provider.
He said, "Let me give you a classical example. A certain telecommunications firm provided a dedicated network for the police. That network expired at some point in a link between Lagos and Abuja. It expired in May.
"While the police were still processing payment through their administrative system, three months elapsed and the network was shut down. The whole platform was abandoned just like that till today. Do you understand the implication of that to the national security system?
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof. Itse Sagay, noted also that the entire contract lacked the ingredients of transparency and accountability and was not in Nigeria's interest.
He said, "It shows lack of sincerity and consistency on the part of the government. It is an arrangement which leaves room for corruption. At the end of the day, it is not in the interest of Nigeria because by the time they waive import duties for goods worth N10.8b, then the advantage to be derived from the three percent interest on the loan obtained is lost.
On his part, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, wondered why the Federal Government of Nigeria had not been able to do business in a more efficient and nationalistic way.
He argued that some of the contracts entered into by the government and some foreign firms had exposed the country to ridicule.
He said, "I am so worried that the Nigerian Government has not been able to do business in a more efficient and nationalistic way. When President Goodluck Jonathan invited civil society groups to brief them on the fuel subsidy removal, the issue underlining the questions came up. When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary in the Ministry said he did not have information on the matter but promised to contact the relevant authority to get a clearer picture.
He said, "I don't have information on what you are asking me. I can't tell you what I do not know but I will contact the relevant authority to find out and get back to you.
"You can also get in touch with the Force Public Relations Officer because the project belongs to the Nigeria Police for information on it."
Attempts to extract information from ZTE Corporation did not yield any result as the company gave phone numbers which are operational in respond to an email sent to its corporate headquarters.
Copyright Leadership. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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