Litigation threatens Customs’ e-auction July 1 takeoff date

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

The Nigeria Association of Auctioneers has warned the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) not to embark on the proposed e-auction of seized and condemned goods from July 1, until the court rules over the matter.

The NCS recently listed ownership of Tax Identification Number (TIN), among others, as criteria to buy any of the goods put up for sale, announced that it will begin the e-auction on July 1, 2017. 

According to the Service, the decision to reopen the suspended auction scheme after about 18 months was taken following successful test running of the new electronic auction portal.

But the auctioneers in a swift reaction to the NCS’s announcement said such a decision is against the law of the country and cannot stand since the court has not ruled on the suit brought by way of originating summons by the association against the NCS.

It will be recalled that the association dragged NCS and its Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali, before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja over the plan by the NCS to conduct online auction sales of seized vehicles and other seized items.

In a suit brought by way of originating summons, the auctioneers are praying the court to hold that by virtue of its incorporation, registration and accreditation pursuant to the relevant laws of the federation, an auction sale cannot be conducted by a committee appointed by the Nigeria Customs Service. 

In a chat with newsmen last week, the legal counsel to the association, Wale Yusuf said since the matter is still in court, all the parties involved must not do anything that will threaten the decision of the court.

According to him, the Customs lawyer filed a motion of adjournment at the last court sitting and the matter had been adjourned to September. 

“Technically, the rule says every party in the dispute must hang up; nobody must do anything that will jeopardize the decision of the court; they will not force on the court a situation of helplessness by doing anything contrary to the determination of the suit. For now, the injunction is still hanging in the court till September; Ali cannot carry out that e-auction until the court decides.

“He will not even try it or we will file for contempt. I think he has been trying to monitor the matter and thought the case will finish by June but I think he will also have to adjourn the commencement of the proposed exercise.

Similarly, the secretary of the caretaker committee of the association, Goke Adedokun, said, “We are registered auctioneers and we have been paying our taxes; we have all the necessary documents, we are registered with the Customs. Recently, 120 members of the association renewed their licences as auctioneers. If the NCS have jobs like this, we are supposed to be called upon to do it because we don’t have any other job.

“If Customs goes ahead with the e-auction, it will deny our members of jobs. We want to generate revenue for the country in a transparent manner. If we are allowed to do the job, it will be a physical exercise. 

“The United States of America’s system of e-auction that the NCS is trying to copy allows open bidding and allows auctioneers to carry out the bid; the Procurement Act of 2007 gives us the right to carry out such exercises.”  


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