FG, Malaysian firm battle over contract of passport booklets worth billions of naira

FG, Malaysian firm battle over contract of passport booklets worth billions of naira

Two years after President Muhammadu Buhari directed that the Nigerian passport booklets be produced locally, that directive is yet to be carried out 

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Two years after President Muhammadu Buhari directed that the Nigerian passport booklets be produced locally, that directive is yet to be carried out  with the Ministry of interior blaming the delay on their inability to terminate the contract awarded to Malaysian firm, Smart Technology Nigeria Limited for the production of the booklets.

Smart Technology Nigeria Limited works in partnership with its parent company, Iris Corporation, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The e-passport booklets are produced in Malaysia, but the Nigeria Immigration Service activates the passport through the biometric data transfer.

The Ministry of Interior and the NIS officials have been holding meetings with ISTL for over one year on the termination or variation of the contract valued at over $138, 443, 740 and signed in May 2003, Punch is reporting.

The situation has led to the scarcity of passport booklets as ISTL has reportedly suspended production of the booklets following moves by the Federal Government to cancel its contracts and commence local production of the travel document.

A source revealed that the Federal Government was facing serious legal challenges terminating the contracts which had no terminal date.

The contract, which included the implementation of the Nigeria Harmonised ECOWAS Electronic Smart Passport and Autogate, was for the production of 5.5 million wafers and laminates for incorporation into the back cover of passport booklets, supply of Electronic Passport Management System, comprising the Passport Enrolment and Issuance System, Automated Fingerprint Identification System, Passport Personalisation System, Immigration Border Control System and Immigration Reporting System.

Checks indicate that the Federal Government did not commit any funds to the project, leaving the contractor as the sole financier of the contract. ISTL reportedly took a loan of N3bn in 2003 to fund the implementation of the project.

The agreement states that ISTL shall bear, pay and thereafter be reimbursed by the Ministry of Interior with all withholding taxes, VAT, duties, fees, levies and other charges connected with the execution of the agreement which did not contain any renewal clause.

However, on March 1, 2007, the Ministry of Interior and Iris Smart Tech signed another agreement for the production of three million machine-readable passport booklets and the embedding of the substrates. The booklets were to be supplied at a unit price of N690.08, totalling N2,070,240,000.

The ministry was to make an advance payment of 25 per cent of the project cost while ISTL was expected to provide technical and management training to NIS officials.