By Nwangwu Uba
More facts have emerged why Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, may have jettisoned the auctioning of Condemned vehicles through online to direct sales to the public. This is because of low patronage through the online sales and the desire to give opportunity to Nigerians from all walks of life to participate in bidding for the Condemned items slated for auctioning this time around.
Many believe that before Ali, the Customs Comptroller General and the management adopted the online approach to auction the slated vehicles for sale, he may have been brain washed by the Customs cabal who were benched by Abdullahi Dikko , the former Comptroller general , as a way of ensuring their views prevail under the current management. They had their way.
Barely two years, after tinkering with the online option auctioning arrangement of the condemned vehicles in all Customs formations across the country, the Customs boss may have seen the need to revert to the old arrangement used by previous Comptroller Generals to dispose such condemned vehicles notwithstanding the allegations of fraud associated with it, because of its simplicity.
Under the new arrangement, Ali, was said to have extended the auctioning exercise to other condemned perishable items like foreign parboiled rice and processed vegetable oil among others.
Investigations by The Value News Magazine shows that virtually all the Customs warehouses across the country have scores of condemned vehicles , foreign parboiled rice and vegetable oil including second hand clothing begging for evacuation to create space for additional condemned goods. From Federal Operations Units, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos, Zone B, Kaduna, Zone C, Owerri, Seme,Ogun, Oyo/Osun, Sokoto/Kebbi/Zamfara to Kano/Jigawa warehouses , the story is the same: warehouses filled with condemned goods.
The situation is more worrisome at FOU, Zone A, mechanical workshop turned warehouse where there are virtually no space to accommodate additional condemned vehicles or Containerised cargoes. It was a pity as the Customs Comptroller General struggled to move round the warehouse recently to see things himself.
Prior to the Customs helmsman visit to the Customs Command, a, visitor to the warehouse had complained of lack of space to keep additional condemned items and the need for the management to find a way to decongest it.
There had been several abandoned 40ft Containers and fairly used vehicles which had been at the warehouse over the years and which had been overgrown by weeds.
The Customs Comptroller General may have had the impression that the Customs warehouses which are filled with Condemned vehicles and other items would be decongested with the online auctioning arrangement and the evacuation of the perishable items such as rice, processed vegetable oil , secondhand clothing and other items to the Internally Displaced People, IDP, Camps in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Edo states. He got it wrong.
The situation was said to have been made worse as the governors in the IDP Camp states found it difficult to mobilise transport facilities to evacuate their perishable items allocations from the Customs warehouses.
The governors, according to sources, had expected the Customs boss to mobilize the trucks that could transport the items to the IDP Camps, in their states being a Federal government pet project.
The Magazine cited two of the trucks loaded with rice at the FOU, Zone A, second warehouse, which had not been evacuated to its IDP Camp location. It was learnt that the trucks had been there for the past five months begging the states involved to remove them to create space in the warehouse.
The refusal of the states to take advantage of the President Muhammadu Buhari magnanimity to evacuate the allocations ,may have forced Ali, the Customs Comptroller General to seek higher powers of approval to auction the condemned items to the public.
As a prelude to the auctioning of the Condemned items to the public, the Customs Comptroller General, was said to have set up a Committee headed by an Assistant Comptroller General to oversee the exercise. The members of the Committee are expected to move from one Customs formation warehouse to the other to ensure transparency.
Mohammed Aliyu and Muhammmed Ubah Garba, Comptrollers, FOU, Zone A and Seme Command respecctively, were said to have prepared themselves to receive the Committee members. The duo who are thorough with their job were said to have taken inventory of the Condemned vehicles and other perishable items in their warehouses to avoid being caught unawres.
At FOU, Zone A, Command, notwithstanding , the number of Condemned vehicles and perishable items in its warehouses, the Magazine gathered that an additional 30 vehicles had been condemned by the Court as well as other perishable items seized by the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team, headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the Headquarters south-west Strike Force headed by Salisu Shuaibu, an Assistant Comptroller. The Command Strike Force and the Rapid Response team were also said to have made resonable seizures of foreign parboiled rice and vehicles , which had been condemned by the Court and deposited in the warehouses.