From Uche Usim, Abuja
The National Association of Auctioneers (NAA) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have disagreed over what constitutes the right processes and procedures to be adopted in the disposal of seized goods legally forfeited to the government.
While the auctioneers insist the Customs ought to involve them in the auctioning of seized goods and overtime cargoes, the Customs on its part believes otherwise, saying it follows the rules enshrined in the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) to conduct any auction.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to the Sun Newspapers office in Abuja recently, the National Secretary of NAA, Isibor Benjamin Abhulimen, said the group was worried that Customs was planning to embark on a massive auction via electronic means that does not have any legal backing and yet insulating his association along in the entire process.
While picking holes in the e-auction arrangement, Abhulimen said the procedure was opaque as Customs still controls the portal and can manipulate it.
However, in a swift reaction to NAA’s position, the spokesman of Customs, Joseph Attah, said Customs had never involved the auctioneers in their disposal of forfeited goods because there was no need to.
“Our own auction is not the type NAA is talking about. We follow the rules of CEMA on auction. Let NAA come to us so that we properly brief them. They should not be going to media houses,” he said.
Meanwhile, NAA says Customs’ type of auctions do not give room for competitive bidding. “Our role is like a referee in a football match. We moderate proceedings. We are professionals and we have our electronic portals. We have written several letters to the CG but no response. We took our plea to the National Assembly. We had a stakeholders meeting. We gave our own position where we called for the repeal of the Customs Act.
“It is obvious and very clear that the Customs’ CG is acting without following due process and the law because there is no existing legal framework that enables the NCS to sell seized and contraband goods by e-auction.
“There is need to look into the Customs Act Section 191, which conflicts with the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Sales by Auction Law, Cap 187 and CAP 12, Chapter 12, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, have detailed interpretation of the Act of Sales by Auction.
Bureau of Public Procurement Act, Part X – Disposal of Public Properties. Section 54, 55 (5) (d) and Section 56 (3), that defines the role of an auctioneer especially in the area of disposal.
“Section 191 of the Customs Act empowers the Customs’ CG to go about the business of constituting committees for onward disposal of overtime and contraband cargoes. However, there is need to have a clear cut interpretation whether or not after the committee set up by the CG of Customs, after they ensure forfeiture and carry out due diligence on identification, classification and valuation, should they still be the ones to sell or not, or if at this point the services of an auctioneer is required,” the NAA scribe said.