By Stephen Ubanna
When the Management of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Headed, by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel gave approval for the reopening of the service electronic auction portal for interested bidders to log in for the overtime cargoes of their choice, people had feared that it might be abused. They have their reason. This is because of the complaints that had characterized a similar exercise in the past.
Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and Customs Spokesperson, had issued a Statement on Friday, August 28, 2020, stating the successful bidders were those who have emerged from the bidding of the 314 overtime Cargoes were earmarked for auction on Auction in a Statement on August 10, 2020.
The items which were selected for online sale were said to be scattered at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin can Island, kirikiri Lighter Terminal,KLT, Phases I&II, Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, IKLT, and the south east ports of Port Harcourt Area I, Onne, Rivers Port, Delta port, Warri and the port of Calabar, Cross river state including the bonded termnals.
Other items that were said to have been listed in the Customs portal for the e-auction, were the seized and condemned vehicles, at the Federal Operations Units, FOUs, premises and Government Warehouses, across the country. The Customs Authorities may have seen the e-auction exercise as a way of decongesting, particular, the Lagos , ports, of Apapa and Tin can Island, which had been battling with high yard occupancy rate due to the presence of several abandoned cargoes over the years. The S Authorities were said to have provided three bidding windows for the e-auction of the overtime cargo and condemned vehicles.
Prior to the emergence of the successful bidders in the e-auction of the overtime cargo, Attah, the Customs Spokesperson, at the instance of Ali, the Comptroller General, had issued a Statement that ‘’interested bidders must have valid Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, Tax Identification Number, popular, TIN, to be able to participate on the link, app.trade.gov.ng/e-auction’’.
The Service was said to have collected N1,000.00 from each bidder as administrative charge. Perhaps, to ensure that the bidders comply with the conditions spelt out for the exercise without flouting it, they were made to know that since the process is fully automated , their physical intervention at was not necessary.
In spite of the transparency in the management of the e-auction, the Complaints and inquiries that were said to have been pouring in , from aggrieved bidders who had tried unsuccessfully but could not win , due to invalid TIN and inability to service- the e-auction Waller, are damming. They haccused the Customs windows used of the online sales of ‘’poor network due to their locations’’.
They were said to have given other reasons that had marred the exercise , which many believe are all outside the jurisdiction of the revenue generating agency. ‘’Some of these Complaints appeared to have questioned the integrity of the e-auction process’’, Attah had said.
The dwell time for the online auction sale, the Customs Spokesperson , had said was 48 hours, stressing that third party claims were not entertained. Note that for the overtime cargo, the successful bidders were said to have paid an additional 25%, surcharge for shipping Line and Terminal Operators, respectively.
The Value News gathered that that the successful bidders were given five working days to make payment and a copy of payment assessment and bank receipt must be presented to the Customs Authorities, and who in turn must forward it to the Area Comptrollers at the ports and the Deputy Comptrollers, in-charge , of the bonded Terminals to facilitate the release of the successfully bidded items.
This may have informed why the Customs Authorities could boast that the Service successfully generated N151,022,245.00 from the e-auction of 187 overtime cargo and vehicles within the period slated for the exercise without losing a dine.
Investigations by The Magazine shows that some of the successful bidders who could not payment within the five working days allowed in order to take delivery of their cargo at the ports and bonded terminals were deactivated as the auction was closed.
This may have informed why the Service still have a total reserved bid of overtime cargo of about N90 million as at Tuesday, August 25, 2020, an indication that the three e-auction windows might be opened a gain.