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Legal Tussle Looms Over Purported Award Of Multi-Billion CTN Contract To Antaser

A Belgium company Antaser may have only won a lawsuit with the purported award of the multi-billion Naira Cargo-Tracking Contract to them by the Ministry of Transport, allegedly at the behest of a Cabal in the Presidency, as Donnington Nigeria Ltd, who were earlier given the green light for the same project, has notified Antaser of a pending law suit over the contract.

In a letter by its Solicitors, Donnington Ltd warned Antaser that the “contract purportedly awarded to your Company is a subject matter of litigation between our Client and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Attorney-General of the Federation, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Ministry of Transportation at the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division with Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1483/2022, before His Lordship, Justice Inyang Ekwo.

“Consequently, we kindly request that your Company desist wholly, partly, directly or indirectly by Yourselves, Representatives and Agencies from participating in the execution of the contract till the hearing and determination of the Suit in Court as anything done by your company during the pendency of this suit will be a nullity.”

The letter, signed by a senior counsel Idakwoji Reuben, Esq, added that “It is important for your company to be aware that the Federal Government has committed Our Client who has since demonstrated the implementation processes with its Technical Partners on the same contract before now and before engaging your Company.”

Recall that the Ministry of Transport had in defiance of a restraining court order, against the legal opinion of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami SAN, and in contravention of two executive orders issued by President Muhammadu Buhari, purportedly awarded the multi-billion Naira CTN contract to Antaser.

In September 2022, based on the application of Donnington Ltd, through its lawyer, Dr. Reuben Atabo (SAN), the Federal High Court Abuja had issued an injunction, restraining the award of the CTN contract.

The judge had ordered the maintenance of the status-quo, pending the determination of the substantive matter.

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transportation were listed as defendants in the matter.

Donnington Ltd had approached the court for protection and remedies when it sensed foul-play by some government officials.

The plaintiffs claimed in the case that, based on President Buhari’s approval of its proposal, it had committed funds to procure equipment, engage staff and foreign partners, but the defendants were planning to now substitute it with other companies.

It was gathered that the CTN contract was awarded on Wednesday last week to Antaser, alongside four Nigerian companies, suspected to be owned by the cabals in government, who allegedly pushed for the award as possible “retirement benefits.”

This was in disregard of the executive order of President Buhari, who had on May 10th, 2021 directed the Federal Ministry of Finance, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources to commence the immediate implementation of the said Advanced Cargo Declaration (ACD)/Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), which had lingered since 2011. In pursuance of this presidential directive, the two ministries jointly requested the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to issue a “No Objection” certificate in order for them to proceed with the award of the single-source contract to one Donnington Nigeria Limited, in view of the national security issues involved.

Recall also that in 2018, President Buhari had in the Executive Order, titled “Planning and Execution of Projects, Promotion of Nigerian Content in Contracts and Science, Engineering and Technology”, directed Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to promote local content by giving preference to Nigerian companies (defined as companies formed and registered in Nigeria with no less than 51% equity shares owned by Nigerians) in the award of contracts, bids and projects.

The said order, which came into effect on 2 February, 2018, required Nigerian companies to be given priority in the award of contracts. Unless where the requisite expertise is lacking, then foreign companies, who demonstrate a plan for indigenous capacity development, could be considered.

The purported award of the CTN contract to the Antwerp based company was further in damnation of an overriding legal opinion of the Attorney-General of the Federation, which he communicated in a letter to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), dated 11th of January 2022, stating the position of the Nigerian law to the effect that only the Federal Ministry of Finance, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, have the competence to implement the CTN, which includes the award of contracts , in pursuance thereof.

“Only the Federal Ministry of Petroleum has the mandate to implement Crude Oil Services,” Mr. Malami SAN stated, adding that the Federal Ministry of Finance has the mandate for Container Cargo Tracking.

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