Customs Accuses Banks of Sabotaging E-Auction, Denies Favouring Jaiz Bank

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Eromosele Abiodun

The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) has accused commercial banks in the country of sabotaging the electronic auction recently introduced by the service to sell seized goods across the country.

Ali stated that banks have failed to key into the exercise adding that recent allegations that the customs is favouring Jaiz Bank Plc in collecting the monetary proceeds of the e-auction are baseless and was only meant to “tarnish and sabotage the process”.

The customs chief, who made these remarks in Abuja during an interactive session with the Chief Executive Officers of 18 import duty collecting banks, stressed that as financial institutions, the banks have responsibility to key into initiative that would generate revenue for the government for the overall benefit of Nigerians.

Specifically, Ali noted that some banks that participated in the exercise when it was run manually have distanced themselves from the ongoing exercise, leaving only Jaiz bank Plc as the sole participant.

He added that with the participation of only one bank until recently when others joined, the system was cumbersome for the bidders and for the service.

According to him, “I am surprised and really short of words. This is economic sabotage. Eighteen banks have now hooked up to the Customs e-auction platform, remaining two more banks that are yet to be on the platform. The money you are going to collect is not coming to Customs; it is not coming to me as a person; it is going to the Federation Account that will be distributed to the three tiers of government,” he said.

Ali noted that the same banks that collected duty for the NCS were reluctant to be part of the e-auction bidding process.
The customs boss added: “For us to initiate this process and the banks pull out calls for concern. One is that we want to get some funds from there. Two, it’s going to ease the process of what we do. It will also encourage transparency in what we do and the essence of what we do is to ensure that there is transparency in revenue collection.”

He said the banks took the e-auction aback but added that he was glad the managing directors of the 18 banks were present at the interactive session to bare their minds on the issues.

“I want to know if there are problems and what the problems are, “he stated.
The bank chiefs, however, took turns to explain their challenges with the bidding, saying it was mostly technical.
While resolving to join forces with customs to form a technical committee that would meet from time to time to iron out the issues until the process was stabilised, some of the bankers who spoke at the meeting denied the accusation of sabotage, insisting that no bank would deliberately sabotage a government process.

Meanwhile, the NCS has flagged off the release of cars to first set of winners from its online auction of seized and condemned items at Idiroko Border in Ogun State.

Assistant Comptroller General of Customs in charge of Zone A (South West), Monday Abueh who supervised the maiden handover of vehicles won to successful bidders told journalists that the service is committed to utmost transparency in the entire process.

Abueh said the bidding and the processes leading to allotting victory to the highest bidder will continue to be devoid of interference by customs officers and their relations in line with the guidelines.

Also speaking at the flag off, Customs Area Controller in charge of Ogun Command, Sani Madugu said the first set of winners were taking their vehicles in his area because seizures from Ogun area were the first to be uploaded on the portal.

He added that the Controller General of Customs and members of the management team approved the process as a continuous one and that winners of other bidding rounds will be receiving the won items from other areas where they were seized, domiciled or warehoused.

Madugu said one of the vehicles won, a Toyota Corolla, 2015 model is brand new and was delayed in customs control after seizure because of the due diligence of court condemnation and approved time for auction.

Madugu said: ”We seized this 2015 model Corolla as a brand new vehicle because duty was not paid and attempts were being made to smuggle it into Nigeria. What you see on it is dust due to the long period it was parked.”