From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has vowed to arrest and prosecute those it described as undesirable elements who invaded the recently launched e-auction platform to make fraudulent and unrealistic bids with the sole intent of polluting the system.
The Public Relations Officer of Customs, Joseph Attah, who disclosed this in Abuja yesterday said the management has also begun moves to reprogramme the online auction platform to make it inaccessible to fraudulent bidders who are discouraging genuine ones from participating.
According to him, 43 winners emerged within 48 hours the first round of bidding opened on July 3 this year.
“Out of this figure, 42 have paid for their bids and began collection at the Ogun State Command where the vehicles are located.
“But when we started the second round of bidding by 12 noon on July 12, which lasted 48 hours, 115 vehicles were uploaded on the platform. All were bidded for and supposedly won. I used the word supposedly because our experience revealed that some bad elements who are criminally minded have launched into platform and began bidding bogus and unrealistic figures just to spoil it.
“Where a bidding is ongoing for an item with a reserved bid of N300, 000 and people are offering N650, 000 and all that, you would see someone from nowhere quoting N10m. It is obvious they are jokers who think we are fooling around.
“Remember the rule is that in the event the highest bidder cannot pay within five days, the item reverts to the second highest bidder. So what these people have done is to pair themselves up. Where one person bids reasonably say N500, 000 for an item with a reserved bid of N200, 000, the other drops an outrageous figure like N8million just to ward off potential bidders. We know the vehicle is not worth half of that amount in the market. This is unfair.
“So, we are reprogramming the system in such a way that you cannot bid beyond a certain percentage of the reserved bid or what the average bidders are offering. The system will not allow you and once you make such exaggerated bids, the system detects you and using your Tax Identification Number (TIN), you will not participate in future bids of Customs aside the risk of prosecution for the malpractice. Again, the system is being reprogrammed in such a way that when the winner fails to pay in five days, the item will revert back into the pool for fresh bidding, instead of going to the second highest bidder.
“The management knew why the TIN was made a mandatory pre-bidding requirement. It gives us your picture, address, phone number, email and other vital information. With this TIN, we will go after these fraudsters”, Attah explained.
The Customs spokesman, while giving an overall assessment of the e-auction said the system recorded a total of 2,001 registered bidders.
Out of this figure, 1,919 were enabled and participated in the bidding.
“We want to assure public that the NCS is determined that e-action platform succeeds. We are motivated by the benefits of the online auction platform like security, opportunity for better revenue generation and the fact that it presents equal opportunity to all Nigerians interested in the Customs auction.
“As a Service, we want to continue to engage the general public through a process that is transparent, accountable and capable of safeguarding our integrity”, he added.