By Chidi Anthony Opara, RFF, FIIM
A tripartite agreement was said to have been signed between the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS), the Africa Finance Corporation(AFC), said to be the financiers and Huawei Technologies Limited, a Chinese company.
The agreement was said to have been midwifed by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
The agreement is said to have the capacity to generate $176 billion for the next 20 years for Nigeria's "E-Customs Project".
There are however major concerns about the agreement that obviously have not been addressed or that have not been adequately addressed.
The major concerns are:
(1) Twenty years is a very long period of time irrespective of the nature of the modernization that may be required. There is no reason why the modernization of Nigeria Customs Service, otherwise known as "E-Customs Project" should last more than five years. In a worst case scenario, there could be a two-part period of five years each(total of ten years), the first five years would be for implimentation of the designed modernization concepts and test runs. The last five years would be for consolidation and transfer.
(2)Huawei Technologies Limited, China, is a company involved in the supplies and services of sophisticated modern high technology hardwares and softwares. The company recently had security issues with the United States of America and Canada. If Huawei Technologies Limited decides tomorrow to compromise Nigeria's security, nothing obviously would be able to stop them from doing that. We only hope that they would not do that, but that hope is flimsy.
(3) Huawei Technologies Limited, China, will definitely have access to Nigeria's trade database while working on the "E-customs Project", these data accessed can also be made available to third party partners. In the absence of a strong data protection policy and the dearth of enforcements of laws, executive orders, etc, what is the assurance that the data to be harnessed would be used appropriately?
Relying on Huawei's integrity in this regard, as is the case presently is of little comfort.
Thank you all for your time.
(Opara is a Registered Freight Forwarder, Professional Fellow of Institute of Information Management, Africa, Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT)Chief Data Officer Ambassador, former member of CRFFN's Freight Forwarders Consultative Forum and Founder/Publisher, www.publicinformationprojects.org)