By DAPO OLAWUNI
Licensed Customs Agents have lamented difficulties in accessing the Nigerian Customs Service electronic auction platform, saying that the platform is full of old and outdated vehicles.
Three days ago, the Customs announced the resumption of its online auction process for seized cargoes at the port and added that bidding period will be 48 hours starting by 12noon on Mondays and terminates same time on Wednesdays.
The service said the electronic platform would be opened live for interested persons with valid Tax Identification Numbers (TIN) issued by Federal Inland Revenue Service.
However, speaking exclusively with DAILY TREND NEWS at the port on Thursday, a cross section of Customs agents lamented difficulties in accessing the platform even after inputting their TIN numbers.
According to them, most of the vehicles displayed on the auction site are old vehicles of 1999 and other outdated vehicles.
A frontline licensed agent, Mr Mojeed Akanni said the electronic auction process is a welcomed idea if customs could make it accessible for everybody.
But he lamented that “We cannot access the E-auction portal, the link is there, but at the end of the day when you enter it, they would tell you the password doesn’t match, meanwhile it is the same password I have been using for all my transactions with customs.
They require that we input our TIN number, after we input it, still the platform is still not working”
“The auction is a welcomed idea if customs can make it accessible for everybody, there is no influence there, you can easily log into their system and get it right, a common man can get auction without influencing anybody” he said
Also speaking, a prominent member of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Mr. Ojo Akintoye reasoned that, the fact that the e-auction cannot be accessed is an indication of foul play.
He said that the Customs authorities have no excuse to say that the traffic was high and this was why many people cannot access the platform.
“I believe that if the platform is not accessible, there is still a foul play”
“The traffic should not be an excuse, do you know the number of people accessing import duty payments on daily basis, the traffic should not be a problem”
“My major concern is; what happens to those people that the Customs has given licences as auctioneers? There are some people given that license to auction, so what happens to them now?
“The online auction is good because some of the importers whose cargoes are being seized can apply to buy it back, but right now, the platform is not accessible” Akintoye stated
On his part, President of Advocacy for Maritime Development Association of Nigeria, Mr Segun Alabi said that the Customs electronic auction is good if it is not manipulated.
Alabi advised customs to ensure that there must be honest people mounting the auction electronic platforms.
“My advise to Customs is that they should be honest and transparent with the scheme”
“Auctioning is part of our law, when you come in with a contraband item or items that have overstayed at the port, the government has the right to auction it. The importer is also given an opportunity to apply for a “buy back” and show evidence that the cargo belongs to him”
“Anything done electronically is good because it is seemless and devoid of human contact, but at the same time, it is garbage in garbage out, I dont want customs to bulldoze us with the fact that it is electronic, it could still be manipulated”
“Electronic platform in port process is good because it minimises interactions in port operations and consignments would go out faster” he said
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Customs Service has announced that 174 persons emerged winners following the resumption of NCS e-auction process that started on Monday 12 noon and ended on Wednesday 12noon this week
In a press statement issued yesterday by the National Public Relation Officer of the service, DSC Joseph Attah, the first 48 hours bidding period had 198 vehicles uploaded with 6,938 persons who bidded while 174 emerged as winners.
Attah said “The first 48 hours bidding period had 198 vehicles uploaded. 6,938 persons participated (bidded) with 174 emerging as winners.
“The winners have five days to make payments and 14 days from the day of payment to proceed and take possession of their own items or forfeit them.
“Failure to pay within five days will lead to revocation of the item and deactivation of the defaulter’s TIN from further participation in the NCS e-auction process.
“The e-auction platform app.trade.gov.ng/eauction will continue to be opened for 48 hours to interested bidders weekly.
“It provides equal opportunities to all Nigerians irrespective of status, tribe or religion” he stated.