- As Nigerian Bidders fault Customs’ e-auction, maintain process not transparent
By Frontline Reporters
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has released the names of winners of its e-auction of seized vehicles, even as bidders in the auction sales accused the service of not being transparent in the conduct of the exercise
Customs Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, in a statement on Friday said they list had to be released following complaints from some prospective bidders who questioned the integrity of the bid process.
Attah said the NCS has so far generated N151 million from payment of 187 items bid for out of 314 items auctioned as at 25th August 2020.
The statement reads, “Since the reopening of the Nigeria Customs Service e-auction platform app.trade.gov.ng/eauction, some complaints and inquiries have been pouring in, especially from those who tried unsuccessfully due to either invalid Tax Identification Number (TIN), inability to service e-wallet, poor network at their locations or any other reason which are all outside the jurisdiction of the service.
“Some of these complaints appeared to have questioned the integrity of the e-auction process. For the avoidance of doubts the following is the update so far:
“Summary of e-auction as at 25th August, 2020: Number of windows, 3; total number of items auctioned, 314; total number paid for as at 25th August, 187; total reserved bid amount N87.9 million and total bid amount paid, 151million.”
Recall that 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.
Some bidders who spoke with Frontline Reporters 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.
An 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.