- To Probe Failure Of Inter-Agency Committee
Photo caption: Chairman, House Committee on Banking and Currency, Hon. Victor Nwokolo (standing 12th from left), and the Group Head, Asset Management Directorate of AMCON, Matthew Coker (standing 9th from right) with other members of the National Assembly and senior staff of AMCON at the just concluded retreat in Lagos.
Almost three years after Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo inaugurated an Inter-agency Committee chaired by Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), to speedily resolve the challenges hampering the recovering of its over N5tr, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Currency, Victor Nwokolo, at the weekend in Lagos accused the various member bodies of frustrating the recovery efforts.
Osinbajo inaugurated the committee comprising heads and representatives of agencies such as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, urging them to deploy their expertise in the assignment to ensure that AMCON meets its mandate within reasonable timeline. Others are heads of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), the Federal Ministry of Justice and AMCON, expected to review the status of the huge debts, deliberate on practical, legal and other strategies for the recovery of the outstanding debts.
Speaking at this year’s edition of the House of Representatives Committee on Banking, and Currency retreat with the management of AMCON among other stakeholders, Nwokolo expressed disappointment that agencies of the Federal Government are working at cross-purposes rather than collaborating for national recovery just after the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had dealt a deadly blow on the domestic and global economy.
The Reps Committee chairman, who spoke at the seminar with the theme, “Asset Recovery as a tool for Enhanced growth, and Stability of the Banking sectors sustaining the Impact and Bridging the challenges of AMCON,” said the National Assembly would soon summon the leadership of the various key committees overseeing the different agencies of the Federal Government to investigate why the Inter-agency Committee on the recovery of the huge outstanding debt owed the corporation is not working as directed by the Presidency.
He described as unpleasant a situation where the Vice President sets up a committee to force partnership among sister to ensure resolution of the debts and there is no action three years after.
According to him, “we cannot continue like this because we are answerable to the people of Nigeria and our constituencies as lawmakers. They will hold us accountable if we fail to take decisive actions that would help AMCON to recover these huge outstanding debts.”
In sane climes, he continued, ministries, departments and agencies of government are supposed to work in sync and ensure that nobody shortchanges the state, wondering why there has been no traction, since the committee was set up in September of 2019.
According to him, “from reports we get from AMCON, it is obvious that they are facing frustrations from not just the obligors but from the judiciary, as well as ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government. There is no reason why that should happen in a decent country.
For that reason, he said the National Assembly would soon organize another retreat for about six critical stakeholders to discuss in great details and adopt a to ensure that Nigeria recovers its money, owed by some heartless obligors, and for which they are hiding under all manner of trickery to evade repayment.
He however commended the leadership of AMCON under Ahmed Kuru its Managing Director/Chief Executive for the resolve to persistently chasing the debtors some of whom feel they are bigger than the country.
He however restated the fact that given that the AMCON Act has been amended and already signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, the National assembly will continue to strengthen the laws of the country on enforcement, which he said has become critical given the tactics of the debtors.
This, he believes, has constrained AMCON from achieving optimum results especially since public funds were used to buy these loans that helped prevent systemic collapse of the banking sector in Nigeria at the time AMCON was created in 2010.
Meanwhile, AMCON says it has recovered about N1.4tr, comprising N681bn in cash; Property Forfeiture, N279bn; share forfeiture N140bn; and other strategic assets N208bn, even as the corporation has recovered a total cash recovery of over N116.9bn from the Polaris EBAs since it was acquired.
AMCON’s recovery processes at this point, he explained, “majorly depends on the judiciary i.e., obtaining possessory orders or orders for sale. The slow pace of our court processes and sometimes conflicting orders by the Courts, especially at the Federal High Court (FHC), which is our Court of first instance frustrates recovery process. There are delays in obtaining dates in the court to hear AMCON matters.
“Deposit of judgement sum as provided for in the act is not enforced by the Courts, some of the obligors are still active contractors of the government. They carry out businesses with government with debtor company names or other pseudo names and the BOFIA Act that provided for a Special Tribunal on recovery and enforcements would have hastened the adjudication of our matters in Court if the Judiciary had constituted a task force specifically in that regard,” he concluded.
Kuru, who was represented by Matthew Coker, AMCON’s Group Head, Asset Management Directorate told the lawmakers that despite the Special Powers as provided by the Act, AMCON still struggles with the implementation due to our judicial system.