FG wields big stick over N5tr AMCON debt
BY OUR REPORTER
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the weekend said the Federal Government would deal decisively with individuals and organisations listed among the high-profile obligors of N5trillion to Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria AMCON.
He warned that the government would not treat such debtors with kid gloves, having made it impossible for the corporation to resolve the debt thereby holding the entire nation to ransom.
The Vice President, who doubles as Chairman of the Economic Council also hinted that there are to set up an inter-agency collaboration framework that would comprise relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs to be supervised by his with a view to ensuring that institutions and individuals that are indebted to AMCON are not allowed to do business with the government henceforth.
He spoke when he received some Board members and management of AMCON at the State House, Abuja at the weekend led by the chairman, Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN. He also said the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, will no longer fold its hands and allow a few individuals that owe AMCON huge sums of money walk freely on the streets of the country. He said: “I think the time has come for the Federal Government to set some examples with some of these top debtors of AMCON, which I believe will set a good example and serve as deterrent to others.”
While commending the performance of the executive management of AMCON under the leadership of Ahmed Kuru for the recovery successes that have been achieved so far against all odds, he also promised that the Federal Government would give AMCON whatever support that is necessary to enable it go after the obligors that have remained recalcitrant despite the olive branch extended to them over the years by the recovery agency of the government.
“I congratulate AMCON for the work done so far having recovered over N1trillion and counting both in cash and in assets. The work you do as a recovery agency is not something that is particularly easy or encouraging because we all know how Nigeria works. But we are committed to working more closely with your administration to ensure that these monies are recovered from AMCON obligors because it will help our economy and provide the government with more money to continue to improve on the development of infrastructure across the nation”, the VP said
It was further gathered that the government would in the next couple of days, invite the AMCON team alongside other relevant MDAs to discuss and fine-tune plans on how to ensure that anybody or agency that is indebted to AMCON are completely made to face the wrath of the law, since government views such debtors as direct enemies of both the government and the people of Nigeria.
Dr. Banire while speaking earlier said AMCON’s visit to the VP was to congratulate him and President Muhammadu Buhari on their recent victory at the polls. He highlighted some of the challenges and frustrations faced by AMCON as a result of the attitude of some debtors who behave as if they are above the law in the country.
He called on the government to rally round AMCON to enable it succeed in its assignment. Banire said, “AMCON has been able to recover over N1 trillion since inception to 2018. Out of the recovered sum, cash accounted for 60 per cent while non-cash assets such as property and equity securities accounted for the balance of 40 per cent. Over the same period, AMCON’s repayment of its indebtedness to the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN was over N1 trillion.
“As at end of December, 2018, AMCON’s Assets Under Management (AUM) amounted to about N172.5 billion. It is noteworthy to state that out of the total real estate properties, assets available for sale is valued at N62 billion. Of this N62 billion about 83% comprises of bare land and other assets, which may need considerable improvements to convert into income generating assets. Your Excellency may recall that in September 2018 following the takeover of Skye Bank Plc. by the CBNand the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation NDIC, AMCON was again invited to inject a total sum of NN898.45 billion as capital thereby leading to the emergence of another bridged bank named Polaris Bank Limited.
“The intervention in Skye Bank was caused majorly by internal abuse by the operators. As a result of that development, AMCON’s total debt obligation to the CBN, is currently in excess of N6 trillion. And it is evident that the Federal Government cannot afford to write off this debt in the short term, hence, our moral obligation to pursue obligors and recover the debts owed. But, despite the successes recorded, the corporation has been facing a number of challenges, which includes obligors resorting to all manner of tactics to avoid honouring their obligations. Whilst some are still enjoying government patronage, others are using the judiciary and adopting on legal technicalities to stall recovery, which is why we need a new strategy to enable AMCON meet its mandate before sunset.”
Kuru in his own submission acknowledged the Vice President’s support to AMCON all these years but however added that he cannot wait for the take-off of the inter-agency collaboration, which Prof. Osinbajo talked about because such a move would compel all sister agencies to be on the same page in the interest of the country. Kuru also reminded the Vice President that AMCON’s debts sits on the government’s balance sheet with CBN, and failure to recover may result to serious consequences including recourse to tax payers’ money, which must be avoided. He said for an organisation like AMCON with sunset date, all hands must be on deck to provide the support required.
According to him, considering the huge portfolio of debt, no obligor must be allowed to go scot free no matter how highly placed.