Several days after the Nigeria Customs Service e-Auction portal was launched by the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd), Nigerians who have tried to access the facility have been confronted with challenges owing to the inability of commercial banks to hook up to the platform.

The implication of this glitch in operational capacity is that stakeholders are unable to recharge their e-wallets in order to commence bidding on the goods advertised for auction; a development which they say impinges on the integrity of the process.

This outcome has left many users frustrated, while some say it is a reflection of how the Customs handle other aspects of goods clearance procedures and revenue collection, which are said to be fraught with bottlenecks and avoidable difficulties.

However, a statement by Customs Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah seeking to dispel any wrong perceptions stated that when the platform was developed, it was subjected to user acceptability test with all the banks including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He said that the 23 Customs duty collecting banks were also carried along and properly trained in the process, and throughout the period, no bank indicated any problem with the platform.

It therefore came as a surprise that upon launch of the e-auction portal, only Jaiz Bank was discovered to be ready and active on the platform.

“In the light of the above, the Service immediately wrote a letter to all the designated banks requesting them to integrate with the e-auction application for the recharging of e-wallet same day 3rd July 2017”, Attah said.

He added that two days later, another letter was sent to CBN expressing the need for the Apex bank to confirm the readiness of Commercial Banks under its supervision to perform their roles in the process to ensure the success of the project.

“While we are being told that other banks are making efforts to sort out the technical problem, this clarification is necessary to correct whatever wrong insinuation that could be generated as a result of having only one bank presently on the platform” the Customs spokesperson reiterated.

The statement noted that despite the initial hitches, the first 48 hours bidding period produced 43 winners. While 282 people registered, 268 were enabled with 245 able to generate e-wallet assessment. Out of 177 that recharged their e-wallets, 68 bided and 43 emerged as winners. The items uploaded were 130 vehicles, 43 bided for and won.

Attah announced that the second round of bidding started on Monday 10th July 2017 and will stop at 12 noon on Wednesday 12th July 2017.

According to Attah, the Service is looking forward to seeing more banks hook to the platform and ease the process for bidders. “We wish to assure the general public of the Service determination to ensure that the transparent and accountable e-auction process succeeds.”

Meanwhile, at press time, no bank had issued a statement on the technical experienced with the platform.