Eminent jurists propose ADR to resolve N5tr AMCON debt
BY OUR REPORTER
Eminent jurists in the country have made a strong case for the adoption of Alternative Dispute Resolution ADR mechanisms especially at the centres established by the Federal High Court as part of efforts to recover the over N5trillion debt still outstanding in the books of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria AMCON before its sunset date.
Speaking in Abuja at the weekend, respected jurists who include Justices I.N.Buba; A.M. Liman; C.M.A. Olatoregun; Binta Nyako; Nnamdi Dimgba, Dr. Chuka Agbu SAN and Mr. Olugbenga Bello among others urged AMCON to refer some of its cases to ADR as that could provide faster ways to recover the debts rather than wait endlessly for the congested conventional courts.
This new position of the jurists may have been informed by the fact that the corporation has over 3,000 cases in various courts across the country and given the fact that its sunset date, slated for 2022 is fast approaching. Records also show that of the N5trillion debt, 80 per cent is owed by only 350 individuals.
The jurists made their position known during the Abuja version of the 2019 annual seminar for external solicitors and Asset Management Partners AMPs organised by AMCON at the weekend.
Justice Buba, one of the jurists, who chaired a session at the event said, “Every judge is supposed to promote ADR because it is faster. ADR was set up to help the courts. If you say you don’t want ADR, then you have to be ready to waste your time in court. It is not that the courts deliberately delay your cases, but the courts are overwhelmed by the barrage of cases before them.”
Justice Nyako, who also chaired one of the sessions, at the event co-organised by the Legal Academy while commenting on why cases are piling up in courts, urged counsel to AMCON to familiarise themselves with the legal procedures before appearing in court. According to her, if a lawyer handling AMCON case does not follow procedures, the case will not take off. To help ease off the pressure, she added that the Federal High Court is trying to establish three more ADR centres in the country for ease of dispensing justice.
“Once the ADR centres are open, I want to encourage our lawyers to refer some of these AMCON cases to the ADR centres and help decongest the courts.”
Meanwhile, Managing Director/CEO of the corporation, Mr. Ahmed Kuru who was represented at the annual seminar by the Executive Director operations, earlier in his welcome address, lamented the huge outstanding debt to the corporation in the sum of over N5trillion, which will eventually become a burden to the Federal Government of Nigeria if at sunset AMCON failed to recover.
Urging AMCON lawyers to sit up especially in the face of hard fighting obligors, he added, “We have noticed increased incidences of obligors taking advantage of the appeal process to deny us the benefit of favourable judgments obtained. Going forward, we should be conscious of the availability of the opportunity to request the courts to order litigants to deposit judgment consideration with the court registrars. This will mitigate the practice of obligors deliberately dragging their matters in court.”
He urged AMCON’s counsel and Asset Management Partners AMPs to take advantage of the special provision on accelerated hearing of AMCON matters since the Practice Rules allow the courts to sit from day-to-day, even on the weekends, at their discretion.
“The starting point for all our external lawyers and AMPs is the AMCON Act. If you are not familiar with the provisions of the AMCON Act, you will not be able to understand why AMCON is a unique institution. The essence of enacting a special legislation for the establishment of AMCON and the regulation of its operations is to remove it from the established common law principles and procedure of debt recovery. Therefore, it is essential for our lawyers and AMPs to be abreast with the AMCON Act”, he said.