Nigeria Joins The League Of Uganda And Other Countries, Plays Into China’s Hands

By Stephen Ubanna

 President Muhammadu Buhari, appears to have known that the Nigerian government may no longer be able to service the China Development and Exim Banks unpaid  $3.3.4 billion debt that he may have given  Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS the nod, to sign a  working agreement with  a Consortium of firms , Trade Modernization  Project Limited. The Consortium comprises of African Finance Corporation, AFC, and Huwei Technologies Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of China based Huwei Technogies Company Limited.

The $3.2 billion investment to digitize operations of the country’s land border security and the revenue collection outfit, according to the Customs boss would generate the country over $176 billion from the deal in the next 20 years. The Consortium is expected to take over control and management of the country’s seaports and land border areas from the NCS, and subsequently, remit revenue collected to the Federation account within the 20 years and seven years of grace period of management and control of the outfit.

Ali: CG, Customs

Going by their Calculation, the Chinese State owned digital firm, Huwei Technologies, which is expected handle the digitization project,   has a yearly payment of about $8.8 billion, equivalent of N5.2 trillion, annually, or a monthly payment of $0.733 billion or N210 billion to pay into the Federation Account which translates to a whopping sum of $176 billion in 20years and a seven years grace period.  At present the  Consortium had said that  it  would need  30,000 people  to be able to effectively  and efficiently carry  out  the mandate given to them but currently have 15,00 personnel.

In spite of the fact that the NCS Authorities and the Consortium had signed the agreement as at May 10, 2022, for the digitization of the revenue generation outfit operations across the country, the Consortium personnel are yet to take over control of the revenue collection services and remittance into the Federation Account  from the NCS personnel who are anxiously waiting for them  to resume while they watch from the sidelines.

Many believe that the  Chinese  government which  is hiding under the cover of the state  owned firm, Huwei Technologies  has technically  taken over the NCS , which controls the operations at the  technical seaports, airports and  the nation’s land border Areas as the Nigeria government has proved incapable of servicing its $3.4 billion loan owed to the country.

They had maintained that the Nigerian government has practically surrendered the country’s seaports, airports and land border areas to the Chinese government through the state owned Huwei Technologies firm. Like Uganda, which surrendered its Entebe International airport to it over a $207 million unpaid debt, the Nigerian government has surrendered the NCS, to it with a maturity period of 20 years  and a seven years period to repay the $3.4 billion loan used for the construction of the dual railway tracks Construction in Nigeria.

There have been several other African countries that have handed over one asset or the other to the Chines government to manage over alleged unpaid loan. Indeed, Nigerian has joined the league of these countries that have played into the hands of the Chinese government to control and manage the NCS, which is a revenue generating agency for the next 20 years and grace period of seven years based on the agreement.

Industry stakeholders fears that the 20-year deal may give the Chinese firm  room to know much about the Nigerian sources of income in the nation’s maritime sector which could be exposed to a third parties and thus compromise  the country’s security.

The worry of Industry stakeholders was that the engagement of  theChinese state owned Technology firm, which recently had ‘’security  issues with the North American country of the United States, US and Canada  was not the best option  for Nigeria for now. They noted that since the Chinese firm currently has  the country’s trade database  while working on the $3.2 billion  e-Customs  project, it is not too goo good for the country.

APM Terminal, Apapa port

The argument in both official and unofficial circles was that the same way the Chinese state owned  Exim and Export  Banks had  plundered the Uganda  Entebe International Airport to recover their $207 billion loan, the same way the Chinese state owned Huwei Technologies would plaunder the Apapa Customs Command, Tincan Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML,  Kirikiri Lighter Terminal Limited, KLT phases, I and II, including the South east Customs Commands of PortHarcourt  Area 1, Port Harcourt Area II, Onne, to recover their unpaid loan.

 There are fears that the same approach adopted in the Lagos Customs Area Command to recover the unpaid   $3.4 billion debt may also be extended to the other south east Customs Commands of Calabar, Warri Command, Murtala Murtala Muhammed Command Area I and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja. This is in addition to Aminu Kano International Airports and other Airports across the country as well as the Land border areas across the country.

More worrisome to maritime experts  was the fact  that the $3.2 billion e-Customs project  is skewed against  promoting export of agricultural  and Made in Nigeria goods  to other trading partners thus making Nigeria a consuming nation  that imports are targeted  to pay more  duties  and levies, a development  that  may further trigger inflation in the already battered economy.

In the implementation  of the 2022 Fiscal Policy  Measures and Tariff Amendments,  the Nigerian President was said to have approved  Supplementary  Protection measures  for the implementation of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS,  Common External Tariff , CET,  2022-2026 and Excise  duties  on Non Alcoholic  beverages , Cigarettes and Tobacco products as well as Telecommunication facilities.

 The ECOWAS  CET, according to an informed source comprise  of  Import Adjustment Tax,IAT, with list of additional  taxes and levy  on 172  tariff lines  of extant ECOWAS CET goods. There is no gain saying the fact that the NCS, Authorities may have prepared the ground for the   for the development of the e-cutoms  through ASUCUDA.

 Ali, the Customs helmsman, may have alluded to this when he hinted that over the last seven years  the following electronic Applications : e-manifest, e-payment, e-remittance, e-notifications,  e-Government Platform,  for  single window  to  stakeholders  in the international trade, e-release, e-provision of NCS national private telecom  network, have been developed.

 This clearly shows that that the Chines firm, Huwei technologies Limited personnel would have little or nothing to do in the $3.2 billion e-customs project in Nigeria  but ostensibly to make money for their home country and plot how to recover the $3.4 billion loan from the Nigerian government.

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