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N30b Worth Of Seized Vehicles Wasting Away In Customs Custody

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Thousands of seized vehicles estimated to cost about N30 billion are currently wasting away at various warehouses of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) nationwide as bidders prospect for an opportunity to buy them on the e-auction platform.

The Guardian learnt that the vehicles, including exotic brands and top models, were either abandoned by importers or seized from smugglers across the borders, seaports and other locations.

Among those sighted by The Guardian are Mercedes Benz G wagon and various Mercedes Benz 4matic models, Hummer, Mercedes Benz, Range Rover Evolution, Ford Edge, Toyota Land Cruiser, Highlander, Toyota Hilux, various models of Lexus, Porsche cars and a host of other sport utility vehicles (SUVs) from Ford and Toyota brands. There were also a variety of trucks, salon cars and buses.

The seized vehicles, many of which have reportedly gone through the process of court condemnation and are awaiting auction, are detained at the border stations, seaports commands and at the Federal Operation Units (FOU) in Lagos, Owerri, Benin, Bauchi, Kaduna and Kano.

The Comptroller-General of the NCS, Hameed Ali, had introduced an e-auction platform (app.trade.gov.ng/e-auction) on July 3rd, 2017, which recorded little progress due to some glitches being experienced with digital technology.

The last phase of the auction had only 806 vehicles uploaded on the platform and bought by 753 bidders. It generated about N346.1 million. Another phase began late May this year, but The Guardian learnt that it did not last one month before it was shut. At present, the e-auction process has stalled, due to the banks’ e-wallet challenges.

Customs Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah, confirmed to The Guardian that the banks’ e-wallet challenges posed difficulties for bidders in making payment.

“The e-auction is active and still on. Just that bidders at a point were experiencing difficulties in making payments through the e-wallet. The CGC had a meeting with the managing directors of the affected banks who promised to sort out the challenges at their own end. Uploading will continue immediately the banks are ready,” he said.

Attah had earlier told The Guardian that some of the vehicles in their custody were due for auction, while others were still undergoing court processes.


“It’s not everything that you see there that must be auctioned. There are several conditions that are keeping some of them. There are those whose cases are still in court, and we have no right to auction them. We don’t have control over the court, and we don’t know how long the cases will take,” he stated.

When contacted, some banks, which were reluctant to comment on the issue, said the customs should sort out its problems and stop apportioning blame. The Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS) said the NCS should mention the specific problem for it to know how to intervene.

In its reports, the NCS said some of the vehicles were intercepted during attempts to smuggle them into Nigeria. Others were seized for being used to convey smuggled items.

The spokesman for Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN), Bolaji Akinola, said over 5,000 vehicles were rotting away at the ports alone, taking over the space that could have been used for incoming goods.

“The advantage of auction is two-fold: it will make valuable space available in the port for other cargoes. The law provides that any cargo in the port, after 45 days, has become overtime cargo, and it automatically becomes government property, and in a move to free the space, government auctions them. Apart from freeing the space and reducing ports congestion, it will also help raise the much-needed government revenue.

“What is the economic sense in leaving vehicles at a particular space to rot away for years? So, we appeal to customs that whatever modality they want to use, (e-auction or manual auction), they should auction them,” Akinola stated.

The NCS has disowned the “fake officers”, saying it does not auction vehicles, rice, vegetable oil, and other items via social media or third party.

“NCS never advertised auctions on Facebook or Twitter; it has never offered jobs on social media and cannot transact any business using the personal bank account of any official. Fraudsters feast on your gullibility, greed, or desperation. You have been warned,” it stated.

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