Nigerians fault Customs’ e-auction, say process not transparent

Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali


Two weeks after the Nigeria Customs Service resumed its suspended online auction of seized vehicles; some prospective bidders have criticised the exercise, which they described as not transparent and lacking in integrity following their inability to participate in the process.

Customs spokesman, Joseph Attah had on August 10 announced that the electronic portal had been reopened for interested persons with valid Tax Identification Number (TIN) to bid for seized vehicles of their choice.

“As usual, the bidding period for every week is 48 hours, beginning from Monday 12noon to Wednesday 12noon. Please note that the process is fully automated and requires no physical intervention of any kind to win,” Attah had said in a statement.

But the inability of several prospective bidders to participate in the process and some designated commercial banks to hook up to the Customs platform has raised doubts over the integrity of the process.

Some prospective bidders who spoke with SHIPS & PORTS said they tried to participate in the process but were unsuccessful, as the web portal would not accept their Tax Identification Number while others who were successful with their TIN could not make required payment at the designated banks.

A prospective applicant, Yemisi Ojo, said while she was able to access the portal with her TIN number after several attempts, she could not fund her e-wallet.

“My experience trying to bid for the Customs auction was very challenging. It is a very difficult process. I was able to log into the portal with my TIN after several attempts but I could not recharge my e-wallet. Initially I went to UBA; the bank said they only accept payment for Customs duty. Thereafter, I went to Heritage bank and for two days, they complained that they could not access the Customs portal and because of that I could not participate in the auction,” she said.

Another potential bidder, Ibrahim Balogun, questioned the award of successful bids to 174 winners in the first batch of the bidding process asking the NCS to publicise their identity. He accused the Service of manipulating the system to auction the seized vehicles, all of which were seized only in the South West.

“Customs did not perfect the online auction and it appears the whole process is a sham because it is not transparent. They are just sharing the vehicles to whoever they want or to themselves. Who are the people that won the bid? All the Customs warehouses are filled with seized vehicles and if they really want to be transparent with the system, quite a number of qualified Nigerians will get a vehicle. But as far as I know, this is just a formality. There is corruption in the system,” he said.

When contacted, Customs spokesman, Joseph Attah, however, dismissed the allegations saying that the online portal is transparent and open to all qualified and interested Nigerians to bid.

On the challenges of funding e-wallet, “Attah said, “The complaints will always come and only people who get through will be the winners at the end of the day. It is the people who have won that will tell them how they won. Like the first window, we recorded 174 and the last one that ended yesterday (last week Wednesday), 57 vehicles were uploaded and 50 were won.

“Because some people say they could not log on to the platform does not mean the process is not transparent. Is Customs responsible for the issuance of TIN?  The platform is at its optimum now and it is performing very well,” he said.