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Controversy trails Customs e-auction

Controversy trails Customs e-auction

— 6th July 2017

…Nigerians kick as 43 bidders win 1st round
•Jaiz Bank only active portal for transaction
By Isaac Anumihe
Few days after the Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), got wide-spread commendation from Nigerians for instituting what would be the first ever electronic auction for the Customs, the Service is again in the eye of the storm following what many described as a controversial award of successful bids to 43 bidders out of thousands of people that applied in the auction.
This first shocker came when the Customs spokesman, Joseph Attah, declared that only 43 bidders out of thousands of people who bidded won in the first round of bids. This was even as Mr. Joseph Attah, revealed that Jaiz Bank, Nigeria’s leading non-interest commercial bank had the only active portal for the transaction while the other 23 banks were said to be having interswich challenges.
Attah, also confirmed that at the first day of the launch, there were technical challenges with the e-auction platform but that those challenges have already been resolved while potential bidders can now register smoothly without hitches.
“The first 48 hours expired at 12noon on Wednesday and 43 persons have won the bidding including a journalist. So you can see this platform is working.
“For now, it is only Jaiz Bank that is on the platform. Other designated banks are having Interswitch issues and they will soon be on board as soon as they ratify the issues.
“I understand that today one bank will soon be on board. For those trying to register, they should go to the designated bank area on the platform, click on the Jaiz Bank and print out the page from their system and go to the bank to pay.
“This means the person has activated with Jaiz Bank and the bank can key you into the bank system to enable you pay the N1,000 administrative fee, which will be transferred to your e-wallet,’’ he said.
But since the announcement was made, Nigerians have taken the Custom high command to task, querrying why only a non-interest commercial bank emerged as the only institution succeeded with the auction while the other 25 banks re still struggling with connectivity. John Badmus, a freightforwarder told Daily Sun that he suspects some foul play. He said “I can’t understand why my bid was not taken because I tried for several hours and there was connectivity problem, even after Customs had assured the system was hitchfree.” Badmus called on the Federal Government to suspend the aution until all the grey areas are sorted out. He said it will be improper to deny Nigerians opportunity to bid for the cargoes. Another bidder who does not want his name in print, called for a probe of the current Customs auction.
Meanwhile, a freight forwarder, Mr Olusegun Ologbese also interjected by saying that since the auction is a continuous exercise, the initial difficulty regarding the website will freed up.
“I have not got the details of the auction. But I think I saw the CG talking on television. I am sure that there is no decision arrived at for that exercise that can be suspicious because I know the type of fellow the CG is. He is a man who will not want a reproach. Let us believe he should be thorough.
Well, website is not friendly to everybody. So, if somebody does not get it today, he will get it tomorrow. It is a continuous exercise.
Recall that Ali, on July 3 in Abuja inaugurated the e-auction platform aimed at giving all Nigerians equal opportunities to partake in bidding for seized vehicles and to increase Customs’ revenue.
Attah, however, confirmed that at the first day of the launch, there were technical challenges with the e-auction platform and these challenges, he said, have already been resolved while potential bidders can now register smoothly without hitches.
“After repeated tests of the e-auction platform, NCS is now set to deploy the e-auction portal on July 1, 2017,’’ the statement said.
The statement added that the portal has been fully networked to designated banks to ensure that money accruing from the auction gets to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Treasury Single Account for transparency and accountability.
The conditions for the e-auction qualification include, applicants must have a valid TIN issued by FIRS with an active e-mail account and shall pay a non-refundable fee of N1000 as administrative charge. An item is auctioned “as is” as such request for replacement or refund shall not be entertained. The successful bidder shall make payment within five working days and failure to pay within the stipulated timeframe, the items reverts to the second highest bidder.
One of the intending bidders told Daily Sun that the idea is good because it is one of the most transparent steps ever taken by this administration.
According to him, it gives bidders the confidence that the winner of the items will take delivery of them without favouritism and godfatherism.
“For the first time in the history of the Nigeria Customs Service, there is an attempt to increase the degree of transparency in the auction sales of the condemned items. When I said condemned I mean items that have gone through the court process and the court has approved the sale. So, it makes it very possible for only identifiable persons, traceable persons, existing persons, not phoney names, not fabricated names, not a state where we have to suspect that not the same person who seized the items will now issue auction paper to non-existing persons and give to themselves. This makes it possible that every item that is purchased we know that it is Mr A that purchased it. His identity is verifiable, traceable, without any form of godfatherism and favouritism. In fact this a groundbreaking transparency method” he noted

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