CJN, Appeal Court President propose ADR for AMCON’s N5.4tr debt recovery
From left: Managing Director/CEO, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria AMCON, Mr. Ahmed Kuru President, Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen at the just concluded AMCON’s interactive session with Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal held at the National Judicial Institute NJI, Abuja.
BY FRANCIS EZEM
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen and the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa have made a strong for the adoption of Alternative Dispute Resolution ADR window now available in courts across the country for the recovery of N5.4trillion owed the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria AMCON ahead of its 2024 sunset date.
The duo spoke in Abuja Monday, at an interactive session organised for justices of the Supreme Court; Court of Appeal and National Judicial Institute NJI by AMCON, with the theme: ‘Strengthening AMCON’s Recovery Drive’, where discussions centered on how the corporation can effectively recover its outstanding N5.4trillion debt.
Speaking at the event, Justice Onnoghen said the judiciary must be conscious of the daunting task before AMCON, which requires the support and cooperation of the judiciary on the one hand and for AMCON to think outside the box and come up with innovative ways of accomplishing its mission within the ambit of the law.
According to him, the corporation should be more creative in order to recover as much debts as possible within its defined lifespan. He added, “It is for this reasons, that I will encourage the use of ADR, as part of the mechanism put in place to resolve asset management related disputes in our courts.”
The CJN who insists that it is in the interest of Nigeria that AMCON succeeds in its assignment, also added, “Certainly, judicial time and capacity are scarce public resources; as such repeated delays constitute waste of these precious resources. A better understanding of the current trends in this area of the law will go a long way in curbing delays and waste of judicial time and resources, thereby helping AMCON in fulfilling its mandate. The judiciary will continue to do its best to ensure judges remain conversant with the AMCON regime towards engendering efficiency, uniformity and improvement in the quality of judicial services in our courts.”
Meanwhile, Justice Bulkachuwa who corroborated the position of the CJN commended the corporation for organising the interactive session, which she said holds the key to fast tracking debt recovery activities of AMCON and the eventual industrialisation of the Nigerian economy. She said: “As I congratulate the honourable and distinguished participants, I urge you to consider leveraging the ADR infrastructure that is now available in ours courts towards your efforts on speedy recovery. In fact, the Chief Justice of Nigeria has consistently encouraged the utilisation of the ADR in view of the delays in adjudication caused by the density of cases in the dockets of the trial and appellate courts.”
“The appellate courts trust that this form of interactions holds the key to fast tracking debt recovery by AMCON and the eventual industrialization of the Nigerian economy. The judiciary has been playing its constitutional role through dynamic and proactive but fair and objective interpretation and enforcement of the AMCON Act by expeditious determination of AMCON cases and the enactment of AMCON Practice Directions both at the Federal High Court and the court of Appeal as well as the Supreme Court.
“I am aware that my Lord the CJN is also considering an exclusive Practice Direction for AMCON at the Supreme Court. In the meantime, I am also aware that the CJN has advised AMCON lawyers to adopt the fast track window for all AMCON appeals at the Supreme Court. In the court of Appeal, I have since issued a circular directing the expeditious disposition of all AMCON appeals and I am aware that the circular is being effectively implemented,”.
Justice Bulkachuwa who described AMCON’s assignment as difficult and challenging however commended the management and staff of AMCON for taking the bull by the horns on behalf of all Nigerians. She therefore called for a continual review and interaction with all relevant stakeholders especially the judiciary until AMCON recovers its humongous outstanding debt.
The MD/CEO of AMCON, Mr. Ahmed Kuru, in a welcome address, reminded the justices that AMCON currently has a lot of cases that are pending at the Federal High Courts because obligors of the corporation deliberately raise issues that would cause delay in justice believing that by the time AMCON starts addressing the substantive matter, things would have changed. “AMCON currently has over 3,000 cases pending at the federal high court. Given the litigious tendency of our obligors, we anticipate that more than 50 per cent of the cases will proceed to the Court of Appeal and eventually the Supreme Court.
“We hope that the special Practice Directions issued by the President of the Court of Appeal will be very instrumental to speedy determination of the eventual appeals. The Practice Direction prescribed three months for concluding all AMCON matters. If the national assignment of recovering over N5trillion of bad debts will be achieved, the Practice Direction needs to be strengthened and encouraged”, the MD said.
He however admitted that that AMCON has enjoyed the support and counsel of both the immediate past and incumbent CJN through the Practice Directions mechanisms for expeditious hearing and determination of AMCON matters and appealed for the sustenance of that relationship, given that its sunset is fast approaching.
The MD also disclosed that AMCON’s quest to recover more debts informed its gear shift from restructuring towards enforcements, which implies that more cases would come to the courts in the future.
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