Customs Comptroller-General accuses banks of sabotaging e-auction

CG Customs Hameed Ali

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, Hameed Ali, who accused the banks of sabotaging his effort at collecting revenue for the federation.

“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,” he said. 

The Customs boss spoke in an interactive session with the Chief Executives of 18 banks that honoured invitation to a meeting with him in 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 Northerners 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.

“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 transparency in collected revenue for the federation,” he said. 

The Customs boss who said the banks took the e-auction exercise aback, however said he was glad the bank CEOs were in the session to lay bare their minds on the issue for possible solution.

“I want to know if there are problems, and what the problems are,” he said.
Ali 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 that the bidding process has yielded N25,375,500 to the federal government.

The bank chiefs however took turns 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 in developing the e-auction process. 

The parties resolved that a technical committee with representatives from all concerned parties would meet from time to time to iron out all the technical issues until the stabilization of e-auction process.        

The Customs Comptroller-General also directed the e-auction committee to work with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to resolve the issue of Joint Tax Board Tax Identification Number.

Civil servants had complained of inability to access the platform which would enable them to benefit from the auction through the TIN required by the service.

He said civil servants were regular payers of tax, adding that their tax was usually deducted from their salary even before getting paid.

Ali said that there was the need to resolve the issue of JTB TIN, mostly used by civil servants.

“About the TIN for civil servants, I am sorry to hear this because I am also a civil servant. The problem here is we have to talk to FIRS because this is an issue which is very serious.

“Because if you have no TIN you cannot participate on this platform. I will discuss the issue with my colleague in FIRS to see how this can be resolved.

“I think civil servants should also be given this opportunity because their tax is deducted at source.

“Others will go and pay tax when they want to, so we will raise the issue with them (FIRS) and see what can be done, “Ali said.  

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