Post Views: 410 Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, and President Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, want the Asset Management Corpora...
Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, and President Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, want the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to consider the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) window available in the country’s courts to resolve its N5.4tr debt recovery cases.
The two justices spoke in Abuja on Monday, October 8, 2018, at an interactive session with the theme: ‘Strengthening AMCON Recovery Drive,’ involving justices of the Supreme and Appeal Courts, the board and management of AMCON, as well as the National Judicial Institute (NJI).
Welcoming participants, MD/Chief Executive of the AMCON, Ahmed Kuru, had lamented the over 3,000 pending cases before the Federal High Court, because obligors deliberately raise issues that would delay justice. This, he explained, is borne out of their belief that by the time AMCON starts addressing the substantive matter, things would have changed. According to Kuru, “given the litigious tendency of our obligors, we anticipate that more than 50% 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 N5tr of bad debts will be achieved, the Practice Direction needs to be strengthened and encouraged,” he added.
Kuru who said that AMCON has enjoyed the support and counsel of both the immediate past and incumbent CJN through the Practice Directions for expeditious hearing and determination of AMCON matters, appealed for its sustenance as it would be of great help, especially with its sunset in mind. Kuru said the quest to recover more was the reason why AMCON shifted its gears from restructuring towards enforcement, meaning that even more AMCON cases would arrive the courts in the years ahead. AMCON was set up in 2010 as a vehicle to free the nation’s banks of toxic debts that hampered growth in the industry, preventing them from effectively performing their role of financial inter-mediation. The corporation currently has an outstanding N5.4tr debt.
Speaking at the session on how AMCON can effectively recover its outstanding debt in view of its eventual sunset, Justice Onnoghen, in his opening address called the attention of the judiciary to the daunting task before the corporation.
He urged AMCON to think outside of the box and fashion innovative ways of accomplishing its mission within the ambit of the law, just as he agreed on the need for the judicial support.
That is the only way, he stressed, AMCON will recover as much debts as possible within its defined lifespan, which he said informed his advice for the adoption of ADR, being “part of the mechanism put in place to resolve asset management related disputes in our courts.”
The CJN insisted that it is in the interest of Nigeria that AMCON succeeds in its assignment, adding that: “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,” he assured.
Stretching the CJN’s argument further, Justice Bulkachuwa expressed appreciation for the interaction, which she said is key to fast-tracking the debt recovery activities of AMCON and the eventual industrialisation of the Nigerian economy.
She congratulated the participants, just as she agreed on the need to consider leverage the ADR infrastructure which the CJN has consistently encouraged in view of “the delays in adjudication caused by the density of cases in the dockets of the trial and appellate courts.”
She further explained that, 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.”
The CJN, she continued, is considering an exclusive Practice Direction for AMCON at the Supreme Court and has indeed “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,” Bulkachuwa affirmed.
Justice Bulkachuwa described AMCON’s assignment as difficult and challenging and called for a continuous review and interaction with all relevant stakeholders, especially the judiciary until AMCON recovers its humongous outstanding debt.
Photo Caption: Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen (sitting 5th left); President Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa (sitting 4th left); Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) Ahmed Lawan Kuru (sitting 4th right), others justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal at the conference for Judicial Officers, held at National Judicial Institute (NJI), Abuja.