Nigeria loses N200bn to fraudulent auctioning of seized cargoes

13 October 2015, Abuja – The Nigerian Association of Auctioneers (NAA) has said Nigeria lost about  N200 billion in four years to fraudulent disposal of seized goods by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

Cargo shipIn a statement by the NAA General Secretary, Isibor Benjamin Abhulimen, which was obtained by THISDAY, the auctioneers alleged that ‎the huge loss was recorded because the previous administration was not transparent in the disposal of seized cargoes.

Abhulimen said customs officials set ridiculously low prices for the items to be auctioned and sell them at that same prices to their cronies without conducting competitive bidding.

“It is our prerogative to bring this glaring anomaly to the attention of Nigerians and President Muhammadu Buhari administration, especially now that the revenues to the federal government coffers  have dwindled.

“The customs should allow the professional auctioneer to do their jobs.‎ Nigerians will witness a sharp rise in the amount of revenue generated from the sector if professional auctioneers are invited to conduct public auctioning of items impounded by customs,” he said.

He added: “There has been no effort in the past years to generate additional revenue for the government, instead they make the government lose so much revenue and this is simply because the method adopted by the customs, which is direct allocation, does not give room for the goods to be sold publicly by auctioneers who ultimately drive the prices higher through competitive bidding.”

According to him, ‎this process of direct allocation dents the reputation of government and also makes the public lose confidence in government’s style of disposal of these items.

Abhulimen said it was a fact that the sales of seized goods is a punitive measure to stop importers from fraudulent practices, but stressed that government must make the process transparent.

The association however charged the new Comptroller General of the Nigeria Custom Service (NCS) to bring about transparency in the exercise.

They also faulted the current system whereby customs officials see seized goods as their private property, noting that these goods belong to Nigeria, hence there should be transparency in the process of selling them, as against this present method, where by  a few custom officials use their privileged positions to acquire such goods.

“This is the practice globally, if you tune your television to discovery channel on Dstv, you might just stumble on professional auctioneers carrying out live public auction of seized goods in the ports around the world, we have watched the show several times. Nigeria should borrow a leaf from this and allow professional auctioneers do their jobs.‎”

“Auctioneers are closely monitoring the activities of the NCS, for now, it is still business as usual. Containers  that were allocated before the arrival of this new Comptroller General are still being indiscriminately sold. Nigerians should feel the impact of the new customs boss. Right now, we are not feeling it. We hope that before the end of this year change will truly come,” the auctioneers stated.

The association said the NCS is Nigeria’s highest revenue generating agency next to the oil sector in the amount of revenue accrued to the Nigerian economy, stating that one area that is often neglected is the way the NCS handles sales of seized goods.

‎”A few custom officers are feeding fat and living large at the expense of the government and importers. The previous administration’s consistent refusal to work with auctioneers, who would have generated more revenue from auction of seized goods, caused Nigeria to lose a lot of money,” the association said.

“The customs claim to be conducting public auctions without any licensed auctioneer involved in the process. This is not professional and it is prone to fraud. It is high time our public officers learnt to comply with all extant laws.

“An item worth two million naira for instance is seized ‎but the customs will value it at N100,000 and sell to their cronies and this is costing the government huge revenue and robbing other Nigerians equal opportunity to bid for these items,” the auctioneers added.

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