Managing Director Assets, Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr Ahmed Kuru in this exclusive interview with the Publisher, Nigerian NewsDirect Dr Samuel Ibiyemi, speaks on new strategies being adopted to recover N5 trillion debts from powerful 350 Nigerians, plans for Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Polaris Bank Limited and other issues. Excerpts:
Since you took over the mantle as the Managing Director of AMCON, what are your major achievements in office?
The major achievement of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is that AMCON have brought about financial stability, because it has built out some of these banks and that is very key and that is why they were set up, to support some of the businesses as much as they could. As late as last year, they established another bank. To me, that is a major achievement because we are created to intervene, to help institutions, to stabilize the system and I think we have done very well.
What are you doing with regards to recalcitrant debtors constituting headache to the operations of AMCON?
Regarding some of these difficult obligors, what we are doing now is that we are working very closely with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) because we must go after them.
They should not be allowed to get away without been haunted because these are taxpayers’ money. The funding is being provided for by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and guaranteed by the Federal Government of Nigeria. A category of 350 people cannot take the country to ransom, they must be made to pay one way or the other. People must meet their obligations and that is all.
What is your stand regarding interest expected to be paid on Non-Performing Loans?
You are supposed to pay for the interest given the fact that they are bonds and they come with interest. So, you are not paying the principal because they are bond holders. The fact is that you issue bonds with face value, and they are Bond holders who have already been paid.
So, anytime you remove the interest, this is costing you money, and somebody have to pay for that. It is not like grants or appropriation, it is something that you raised and you are paying for; so interest must be part of it because you are paying that interest. Even with CBN now sitting on the balance sheet, interest is being accrued on it, because you are settling the bond owners on the whole amount. So, we cannot separate the two unfortunately.
It has nothing to do with the extension. It has nothing to do with how we can make the recovery more efficient within the first 10 years because as we are operating, we learn more, you see the gaps and fill the gaps. We are working to ensure that we substantially cover all the areas within the given first 10 years, which is very important.
What of the plan to increase the Sinking fund from 0.5 and above to meet up with expectations?
Well, that is a Central Bank regulatory issue, because they have a bigger picture on the foundation stability and they will make the call at the most appropriate time.
At what stage are they in that process, and how are they reaching out to you?
By the time we are approaching the sunset period, they will look out to that. Currently we are looking at the funding model to see where the gaps are, and see how we can tinker to ensure that we meet the original period.
What is the update on Polaris bank because currently you are yet to appoint advisers?
We are going to do that very soon, because we want to do it as soon as possible because that has always been my deal. Left for me, we would have done it before now.
What are your plans for Arik Air?
We want Arik to be taken as part of the assets for the national carrier, because that is the most sensible thing to do now, which is our plan. I believe it is the best thing because it is our assets and we are essentially working on it.
What about Aero Contractors?
For Aero Contractors, we started a divestment process and we are almost at the tail-end of the divestment process. So, Aero Contractors will be finding independent investors for that because they do not have enough aircrafts, so it is just the business we are selling.
What are the modalities of your partnership with EFCC?
That is for us to look at the credit, to identify where there are contra-ventions and whether the contraventions are criminal in nature and then to make the people responsible to respond to the queries in order to recover the money. It is simple, in the sense that the whole objective is for people to come and pay, that’s all.