Seized vehicles worth several billions of naira are rotting away at the warehouse of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), as the electronic platform set up for auction collapses one year after introduction, LEADERSHIP has learnt. The NCS in July 2017, introduced the electronic auction platform to decongest its warehouses across the country of vehicles that were seized from smugglers. Since the platform was introduced, 706 winners have emerged and have been presented vehicles across the country but recently, the platform has allegedly collapsed with no winners announced in the last six months. It was gathered that the last time a winner was announced by the management was in February 2017.
An authoritative source last week informed LEADERSHIP that the NCS had suspended the scheme due to some “technical issues” it was experiencing with the system. The source also disclosed that bid has been placed but winners have not been picked because of the technical issues experienced on the website. “The truth is that the online auction has been suspended. There are actually some challenges part of which is to upgrade the server because some fraudsters hacked into the system the last time,” he said. However, stakeholders have expressed concerns over the state of seized vehicles at various customs’ warehouses in the country.
For instance, in the Ogun area command, the warehouse was not only filled to the brim with seized vehicles but most of the vehicles seized have depreciated to the level of scrap because of long stay.
Apart from the Ogun area command, some of the seized vehicles which are warehoused at the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’ Ikeja are also depreciating fast with no space for new vehicles.
Also, at the FOU Zone C, Owerri, Oyo/Osun command of the service and Seme border command among others are rotting away.
Speaking on the development, president, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, urged the NCS to decongest its warehouse by reviewing some of its laws to generate more revenue for government instead of auctioning seized goods at a ridiculously low amount.
“Instead of seizing these vehicles and allow them to rot away, Customs should look at the provisions of section 142 of the CEMA and allow people to come and pay additional duty and carry their vehicles.
“Provisionally, auctioning is wrong because it is not there in their law. What they should have done is to assess these seized vehicles and allow people pay extra duty and clear them. That will add significantly to Customs revenue than what they get from auctioning the vehicles.
“Countries all over the world these days are not talking in terms of penalty and seizures. What they talk about now is pecuniary penalty which has to do with money because trade has changed,” he said.
Another clearing agent, Ebenezer Banwo, asked the federal government to set up a ad-hoc committee to decongest the customs warehouses across the country of seized vehicles.
Banwo, a clearing agent that operate at the Tin Can Island Port Complex said government would eventually lose huge revenue if the vehicles were not auctioned soon.
He said, “Go to any government warehouse and you will see what am talking about. Majority of the vehicles are in a deplorable condition intact they are nothing but scrap that would be of no value to federal government when they are eventually auctioned so, the earlier it is disposed off, the better for the country.”
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the national public relations officer of the service, Joseph Attah said the online platform was active and alive.
He also disclosed that vehicles at the warehouses of the service across the country must be condemned by a court of competent jurisdiction before it can be uploaded online for auction.
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