By DAPO OLAWUNI
There is palpable tension at the government warehouse at Ikorodu Terminal in Lagos as the Nigeria Customs Service have allegedly commenced “secret” auctioning of over 748 vehicles and other overtime cargoes within the terminal.
Scores of freight forwarders and clearing agents under the aegis of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) in a chat with DAILY TREND NEWS alleged that some of the vehicles being auctioned have already been delisted from auction gazette, and that appropriate duties have been paid.
The agents, suspecting fraud, also alleged that one Brigadier Bihari Salisu, the Principal Staff Officer (PSO) to the Comptroller General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali (rtd) was the mastermind behind the secret auctioning.
When our correspondent contacted the National Public Relations Officer of Customs, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah, he debunked the allegations, saying that customs is not carrying out any secret auctions.
“We are not auctioning any vehicles at Ikorodu Terminal, the auctioning is done online, it is only those who have won a bid and have paid that would now proceed to the terminal where their winning is and pick it up”
You can be part of this auction process even in your own bedroom.
The auction portal is on from Monday 12noon to Wednesday 12noon, the process is still ongoing, whenever there is something to upload, it is done immediately. Some people are very active on this matter, they keep update to know when cargoes are loaded online”
“It would be unfair for me to comment on what I don’t know, when a vehicle is overtime, it must be properly gazetted before it is uploaded to be auctioned
Apart from these, we publish it in three national newspapers and give a thirty days grace period before it is auctioned” Attah stated.
However, speaking under anonymity, the freight forwarders and clearing agents alleged that “The problem is that the PSO to the CG is deliberately taking the laws into his hands, he is collecting money and sectionally selling off people’s cars and goods”
“This started three weeks ago. Some of these officials come into the terminal to mark the vehicles”
“748 cars have been earmarked to be sold whether you have paid duty or not. They are selling these goods to only a section; the northerners.
“They would tell you that they are doing it online, but even the auction department of customs are not aware of what is going on.
“At the last sensitization that we did at Ikeja, the customs confirmed to us that, for now, they have not started auction, and that they are coming to Lagos to take inventory of the cars and containers available, and that they would publish it in three national dailies before auction commences.
“The CG promised that he would never sell people’s goods, and that it is an haram, so why is he selling it now. Even though the National Assembly pressured him, he refused to sell, so why now” they queried
When he was contacted, Chairman of Ikorodu Chapter of ANLCA, Comrade Jimoh Lawal said that the National Secretariat of the association has written letters to customs about the anomaly but no intervention was made.
He said that out of the 748 cars, customs already auctioned 200 of them.
Comrade Lawal appealed to the customs CG to give a six months grace period to owners of these cargoes to clear their vehicles and pay duty.
Already, he said that many importers have come forward to delist their vehicles from the customs gazette and they have paid duty, and commenced clearance process only to find out that their vehicles have been sold off online.
Also speaking, Secretary of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) at Ikorodu Chapter, Mr Hassan Jatto said that it was only recently that customs released an approved bank account where payment can be made on delisted cargoes at the terminal.
Speaking, he said “The rent payment approval issue at Ikorodu is what caused the delay, not long ago we just got an approval and a bank account to pay into, we have started processing the delisting of these vehicles, in the process of doing this, they have started auctioning the vehicles on approval of the PSO”
“The goods that duty have been paid for ought to be exonerated from the gazette”
“Most of the affected vehicles have been delisted and all clearance on them have been perfected, some of them have equally paid duty on the vehicles.
“The clearance is like customs telling you that you can start processing delivery of your vehicle, so why are they auctioning it now?”he queried
The agents have however threatened legal action against the customs management.