The refusal of Deposit Money Banks (DMB) to participate in the recently launched e-auction bidding exercise of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) yesterday unsettled its Comptroller-General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), who accused the banks of sabotaging the service’s effort at collecting revenue for the federation.
He said that: “I am surprised and I don’t know what to say. This is an economic sabotage. The money you are going to collect is not coming to Customs, it is not coming to me as a person, it is going to the federation account that will be distributed to the three tiers of government. So, you deny that.”
The Customs boss spoke in an interactive session with the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of 17 banks that honoured his invitation to his office in Abuja.
He expressed surprised that the same banks that participated in auction exercise when it was run manually distanced themselves from the ongoing automated auction system, leaving only Jaiz Bank as the sole participants.
With the participation of one bank, the process was cumbersome for the bidders, who concluded that the exercise was skewed to favour Northners and Muslims.
He was surprised that the same banks that collect duties for the NCS were reluctant to be part of the e-auction bidding process.
Ali said that “for us to initiate this process and the banks pull out calls for concern. One is that we want to get some funds from there. Two, it’s going to ease the process of what we do, and it will encourage transparency in what we do. And the essence of what we do is to ensure that there is Etransparency collected revenue for the federation.”
The Customs boss who said the banks took the e-auction exercise aback, however said he was glad that 17 banks CEOs were in the session to lay bare their minds on the issue for possible solution.
“I want to know if there are problem, and what are the problems?” he asked.
He noted that fraudulent bidders had infiltrated the process by conniving with one another to circumvent the transparency and integrity of the exercise .
According to him, whoever cuts corner will be delisted from the system.
So far, he said he could not readily state how much the service has lost as a result of the non-participation of the banks in the exercise.
He however dropped the hint that the bidding process has yielded N25,375,500.00 to the federal government.
The bank chiefs however took turn to explain their challenges with the e-auction bidding which were mostly technical issues.
Zenith Bank Plc said it was still trying to work on its software to participate in the exercise.
Guaranty Trust Bank, said no bank would deliberately sabotage the process.
But Citi Bank noted that the agreement it had with the NCS that elapsed in December 2014 was yet to be revalidated.
According to the bank, the gap is that the banks were not involved.
All the parties resolved that a technical committee that has all their representatives would meet from time to time to iron out all the technical issues until the stabilization of e-auction process.