Customs suspends e-auction as vehicles worth billions rot away 

Do you think online auction of seized goods by Customs will work?

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has suspended its electronic auction of seized vehicles; investigation by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY has revealed. This is even as seized vehicles worth billions of naira are currently rotting away at various Customs warehouses across the country.

The NCS had in July last year introduced an electronic platform to conduct auction of seized vehicles away from the old manual auction of goods at the ports and border stations amid malpractices.

According to the Service, the introduction of the e-auction process was based on the need to eliminate abuses associated with manual process of the past , ensure maximum revenue generation as well as provide equal opportunity to all interested Nigerians to log on to the e-auction portal and bid for any item they wish.

However, few weeks into the commencement of the scheme, the Service raised alarm that fraudsters had hijacked the platform with outrageous bid to ward off potential bidders.

Customs Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, had stated at the time that due to the abuse of the bidding process by fraudsters, the Service had begun moves to re-programme the online auction to make it inaccessible to fraudulent bidders.

However, nine months after the introduction of the e-auction, a close source at the Customs headquarters told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that the Service had suspended the scheme due to some “technical issues” it is experiencing with the system.

“The truth is that the online auction has been suspended. There are actually some challenges part of which is to upgrade the server because some fraudsters hacked into the system the last time,” a source at the Customs headquarters, Abuja said.

When SHIPS & PORTS DAILY visited the Ogun area command, the command’s warehouse was not only filled to the brim with seized vehicles but most of the vehicles seized have depreciated to the level of scrap because of long stay.

Apart from the Ogun area command, some of the seized vehicles which are warehoused at the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’ Ikeja, FOU Zone C, Owerri , PTML and Seme border command among others are rotting away.

Speaking on the development, President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Lucky Amiwero, urged Customs to decongest its warehouse by reviewing some of its laws to generate more revenue for government instead of auctioning seized goods at a ridiculously low amount.

“Instead of seizing these vehicles and allow them to rot away, Customs should look at the provisions of section 142 of the CEMA and allow people to come and pay additional duty and carry their vehicles.

“Provisionally, auctioning is wrong because it is not there in their law. What they should have done is to assess these seized vehicles and allow people pay extra duty and clear them. That will add significantly to Customs revenue than what they get from auctioning the vehicles.

“Countries all over the world these days are not talking in terms of penalty and seizures. What they talk about now is pecuniary penalty which has to do with money because trade has changed,” he said.

When contacted, Customs spokesman, Joseph Attah, however claimed the exercise was still ongoing.

“I don’t bid so I don’t know what is going on. Do you want to bid that it is not working? Go and find out now. Something you can access on your handset, you are asking me. Every Monday 12 noon toWednesday 12 noon, you can bid, it is in the public domain,” he said.