In what may be a subtle confirmation that the anti-corruption war of the Muhammadu Buhari is losing steam and the agencies mere lame ducks, Managing Director of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Ahmed Kuru, on Wednesday in Lagos lamented that many of those that have so far failed to pay the bulk of its over N5tr outstanding debts are today in the corridors of power.
The nation is encouraging financial rascality, he warned, with recalcitrant debtors becoming seemingly untouchable, after manipulating their way to become members of the National Assembly, ministers, chairmen and women of big organisations and pro-chancellors of universities.
The loans were acquired from Nigerian banks at the peak of the 2008-2011 financial crises in the country to enable them to concentrate on the task of financial mediation, at discounted prices with bonds that enjoyed the guarantee of the Federal Government. AMCON is projected to wind down by 2023, baring an extension.
Kuru, who was the guest speaker at the July 2019 edition of the breakfast meeting, organised by the Nigerian – American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), noted sadly that “only 350 individuals account for 80% of the debt amounting to N4.6tr.”
Unfortunately, he said, “these are the calibre of people we respect in Nigeria but these people are not role models. How can you be a role model when you cannot honour a simple obligation?
“That is why I have been consistent in the call for the return of the failed bank act. The way we are handling the issue in the country suggests that we are encouraging a lot of financial rascality. People have to be held accountable for their actions, which I believe would serve as a deterrent to others.
“All economies all over the world depend on the financial infrastructure for growth. If we allow or encourage the destruction of the basis of our financial structure, then the economy would not grow. These are men and women who go to banks borrow monies with no intention to pay and in the process bring down banking institutions. It takes a lot for a bank to fail.
“AMCON just rescued Skye Bank with an investment of nearly N1trillion. In a decent society, those who are responsible are not supposed to be held accountable.
“We are talking about recovering over N5tr debt, which sits with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and we know that the federal government through the CBN cannot afford to write the debt off so we just have to recover (it).”
As if calling for the needed political will to enhance recovery efforts, he warned that the Federal Government cannot afford to write-off such debt, given that “the country can do a lot in the areas of infrastructure development in energy, rail line, health, road construction, and a whole lot more (with it).”
On why AMCON cannot deal decisively with this crop of obligors, Kuru told his audience that unfortunately, the Act establishing the corporation does not vest it with power to arrest and prosecute people like some other agencies of the government.
“We depend largely on judicial processes to recover and we all know the slow pace of judicial processes. Given our sunset date, which is around 2023/24; we are determined to go after these obligors within the ambit of the law in line with the AMCON Act. Already, we have changed our strategy to more of enforcement, because the negotiations have failed. We now want to go a step further by working with the ICPC and the EFCC, which will enable us to go investigate the credit processes. If we do not establish this deterrent, we are likely to go round the era of NPL circle again,” Kuru stated.
He however assured that the corporation is not given up on the recovery efforts, however.
Kuru also said AMCON is collaborating with sister agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) to produce a full-length television documentary of such notorious and recalcitrant obligors.
The documentary, he told his listeners, would be a permanent record for generations yet unborn to know the so-called “big men and women” behind the over N5tr debt burden, which AMCON is battling to recover.
He, therefore, urged members of the NACC to lead the campaign for the strengthening of corporate governance structures in both the financial services industry and other sectors of the economy, because lack of it destroys institutions and organisations.
For him, “your chamber must be in the forefront to champion good corporate governance structures; you must preach that people must learn how to meet their obligations; people must obey the rule of law and be transparent in their dealings with others. Above all, we must promote the culture of holding people accountable, especially the leadership class in both politics and business.”
Photo Caption From left to right: National President, Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), Otunba Toyin Akomolafe; Dame Debola Williams; Guest Speaker and Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, Ahmed Lawan Kuru; Vice President, NACC, Mr Ehi Braimah; Director-General NACC, Mrs Joyce Akpata and Honourary Vice President, NACC, Alhaji Abayomi Adigun at the NACC’s July 2019 Breakfast Meeting at Oriental Hotel, Lekki Lagos.