…want funds released from $3.5 billion collection
By Godfrey Bivbere
EX-STAFF of Transport and Port Management System, TPMS, former operators of the now rested Cargo Tracking Note, CTN, introduced by the Federal Government through the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, have called on the government to release funds from the over $3.5billion collected within the two years of its operations before it was suspended, to liquidate their outstanding salaries.
CTN also is known as Advance Cargo Declaration System, ACD is a global initiative to monitor and verify cargo on transit from the port of origin to port of destination.
The TPMS staff said that they only got payment for January and February 2016 from the management which kept reassuring them that their outstanding salaries would be paid.
The ex-staff, in a petition signed by Sunday Egwurube and Onuoha Uche, noted that the management had then attributed the non-payment to government’s introduction of the Treasury Single Account, TSA.
According to the petition, “TPMS management kept a reassuring staff that the delay arose from the newly introduced TSA and kept promising members of staff that as soon as some challenges were sorted out with the TSA scheme, all salary arrears would be paid in full.
“As the days turned into weeks and months, the salaries were not forthcoming but the staff kept putting in their best and the company was able to generate above $3.5 million.”
When contacted, both the Acting Managing Director and General Manager of TPMS, Habib Aliu and Tony Falana, respectively, said they were also a staff of the company and like other employees; they have not received their salaries for the period they worked.
However, an investigation by Vanguard Maritime Report revealed that there are other issues surrounding the activities of TPMS especially during their first outing under the supervision of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, around 2010 and 2011.
The contract was cancelled by the then government before it was renegotiated in 2015 and 2016. The problem started with the company when the promoters excluded one of the partners, a Belgian; who petitioned the then Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi over unremitted funds during the first outing. Based on the strength of the petition, the contract was cancelled and the matter referred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, whose preliminary investigation indicated the company.
Efforts by the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, to reactivate the project because of the economic and security benefits to the country, were unsuccessful as the minister referred the matter to the Federal Executive Council FEC, for a final decision.
The FEC, Vanguard Maritime Report gathered, then referred it to the Ministry of Justice as a result of the legal angle but refused to advise for a restart of the programme until the EFCC gives it final report on the matter.
A reliable source close to the ministry of transportation told Vanguard Report that despite the ministry’s desire to revive the contract because of what Nigeria stands to gain from its implementation, nothing can be done until the final report of the EFCC is released.
The source also disclosed that the London based Zenith Bank where funds collected during the first outing of the company cannot be accessed presently because there is no signatory to it. The Ministry source further disclosed that the process for the designation of the signatories was just being done when the petition from the Belgian got to the ministry.
The source further noted that the CTN will help to enhance the security functions of government as well as help the federal government realise more than N17billion per annum from all imports into the country.
It will also bring an end to the increasing incidence of under declaration of cargoes and concealments, which had denied the federal government of huge revenues if implemented.
African countries such as Angola, Benin Republic, Central African Republic, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire had introduced CTN to track cargoes entering their respective territories.
Efforts to speak with the Executive Secretary of the NSC, Hassan Bello was not success but as a source close to the management of the Council told Vanguard Maritime Report that it is not true that the Council had abandoned the ex-staff of the TMPS contrary to insinuations making the rounds.
The source noted that they were not employed directly by the Council but expressed regret about the plight of the former employees of that company.
Confirming the issue of the signatories to the account, the source said preliminary discussions with the ministry had been concluded and a finance committee was to be set up when the petition resulting in the suspension of the programme came in.
Despite the shortcomings of TMPS, there is a need for the Federal government to quickly review all the issues delaying the take-off of the programme as well as find a solution to the suffering of the workers and their families.
Speaking on the issue, National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA, Joe Sanni, said it will not be out of place for the federal government to look at ways of paying the workers.
Sanni explained that since they have worked for the nation and have helped to generate funds, the government should consider setting up the finance committee to look at options to pay the suffering workers.