The nation’s Senate, on Wednesday, passed the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Amendment Bill, following the consideration of a report by the Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, as part of resolve to help the organization recover its outstanding N4.7tr debt obligations before its sunset.
Highlight of the latest amendment is the clause empowering AMCON to, amongst others, take possession, manage or sell all properties traced to debtors, whether or not such was used as security/collateral for obtaining the loan.
The amendment bill, according to a statement by Ezrel Tabiowo, Special Assistant (Press), to President of the Senate, also empowers the corporation to access the Special Tribunal established by the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, 2020 for dealing with financial related matters.
According to Senate President Ahmed Lawan, “let the people go to court to test it, but our hope and desire is for AMCON to be able to recover huge sums of money – trillions that people have taken and now is on the head of Nigerians. And, it is criminal, really. People will consciously take money. I will advise that we stick to our decision.”
He was ruling on objections by some Senators, who during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill wondered the rationale behind the committee’s recommendation in clause two, which empowers AMCON to take possession of assets outside of those pledged as collateral when the loan was granted.
Investdata News recalls that on February 25, this year, confirmed the full and final settlement of N1.0bn debt by Ademola Seriki, former Minister of State for Defence and former Supervising Minister for Mines and Steel Development, in an apparent bid to ensure his seamless screening by the Nigerian Senate.
Seriki, who was scheduled to appear before the Senate for confirmation of his nomination as Ambassador-designate to Spain, had collected his letter of non-indebtedness after settling his debt to AMCON. The AMCON Act (Amendment No. 2), 2019, forbids those on the corporation’s list of debtors from holding public office.
The debt, which had been negotiated, restructured, and eventually settled, was sold to AMCON by the defunct Oceanic Bank and Skye Bank.
Speaking during Wednesday’s Senate session, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Uba Sani (APC, Kaduna Central), said the Committee engaged with stakeholders such as AMCON, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); and Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).
The stakeholders in their submissions, he recalled, pushed for AMCON to be empowered to take possession, manage, foreclose or sell, transfer, assign or otherwise of property used as security for eligible bank assets among others, adding that, “this will provide for a quicker, easier and legitimate process of assets disposal.”
Contributing, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central), noted that “the essence of collateral, is that in the event of default, you lose that asset. What I am reading here is that, in addition to seizing that asset, they (AMCON) want to go beyond that to every other asset or property that is traceable to the debtor. I think I need some clarifications to that.”
Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North-East) had argued also that “you cannot go outside the asset presented for the facility.”
On his part, Senator Adamu Aliero, however, recalled that “during debate on this bill, Senators made it abundantly clear that these debtors are taking government money, and they are using it freely and going free, and we need stringent measures to be enforced to recover the money.”
The Senate President had at this point called for voting on the contentious clause, which eventually was adopted by lawmakers in the majority.
After the passage of the bill, Senators Bassey Akpan and Chukwuka Utazi, while relying on a Point of Order put forward by the former, contested the ruling of the Senate President by requesting for a division, which was rejected by Lawan.
Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East), had while citing the Senate rules, observed that “it will be out of order to reconsider any specific question, upon which the Senate has come to a conclusion during the current session, except upon a substantive motion or decision.”