By Ayobami Adedinni
A legal expert, Barrister Rafiu Bello has described the employment of professionals as key to the success of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
According to him, the engagement of chartered accountants and lawyers in the debt recovery mandate of AMCON would make its job efficient and effective.
He was reacting to the recent collaboration between AMCON and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to recover about N4.6trn owed by recalcitrant debtors across the country.
The meeting was for both agencies to consolidate on the gains of their relationship especially in the areas of investigating, prosecuting and compelling all obligors of AMCON in accordance with the relevant statutes.
The high-level meeting of the two government agencies led by AMCON Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Ahmed Kuru, and EFCC’s Acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Mustafa Magu is working on taking another look at some banks and their officials that were instrumental to the abuse and violation of internal processes that led to the huge non-performing loans in AMCON’s portfolio.
The agencies are planning to revisit, reinvestigate and duly prosecute such banks and the responsible officials.
The AMCON boss who stated that the EFCC and AMCON have similar mandates of ensuring economic stability, which provides another reason for AMCON to collaborate with EFCC and take advantage of the enormous powers of the EFCC also highlighted some of the challenges militating against AMCON recovery efforts including the slow judicial process, concealment of assets by the obligors, forged documents, and in some instances, collusion between the bankers and the obligors among others.
Speaking with Nigerian NewsDirect during the weekend, he said, “The way forward is for AMCON to employ professionals or engage who are trained in insolvency matters like lawyers and Accountants whose job when they work together is to recover such debts. Even when a debtor is in insolvency crisis, there are lawyers who are trained in such that are specially trained in this issue.
“It is not something you employ a law enforcement agency to enforce something that arose out of civil or commercial activities. But if there are criminal angles to it, the police or EFCC can prosecute. But the issue of recovering the debt is an issue that EFCC has no power under its ACT to recover debts. It is a way of flexing state powers in hounding which is not good enough for the country”, he said.
According to him, debt recovery can only be done through civil litigations stressing that, “In as much as we want to build institutions in Nigeria, it is a wrong step to take by institutions because the laws of the nation are clear on how an institution or individual can recover debt. Debt recovery can only be done through civil litigations. Times and gain, our courts and judges of the apex court are surprised that the police which EFCC is an off shoot of are not debt recovery agents. These are matters that lawyers are specially trained on.
He however urged the government to strengthen the courts to ensure that they are efficient and effective in this regard so that practitioners such as chartered accountants and lawyers could the job and that AMCON could get its expected result.
Recall that last week, the EFCC Chairman said it had established AMCON Desk with dedicated EFCC officials that ensures that all AMCON related cases in EFCC received speedy attention. Magu assured Kuru that the AMCON Desk at EFCC will continue to be functional adding that the EFCC is willing to increase the number of personnel on the Desk if so required and would be willing to establish a Lagos branch if necessary to make sure these huge loans are recovered in the interest of the Nigerian economy.
Condemning the impunity with which those transactions were done, the EFCC boss affirmed that some of these obligors “who took loans without the intention of paying back” did not envisage that someday an agency like AMCON will come knocking on their doors seeking to recover the loans. According to him, giving the similarity in the objectives of both agencies, the acting EFCC Chairman said there is need for joint trainings towards fostering better understanding between AMCON and the EFCC.
While reaffirming the commitment of the EFCC to cooperate and provide the much needed support to AMCON, Magu urged AMCON to ensure justice is done in all cases because most of the obligors may not have acted alone in their unwillingness to repay, but may involve the connivance of some of the bank officials whose motive was to cheat the banks ab-initio. He however disclosed that “in appropriate circumstances, these bankers would also be called upon to account for their roles in granting these questionable facilities.”
On his own part, Kuru who thanked the Acting Chairman of EFCC for graciously receiving the AMCON delegation however expressed appreciation for his passion and cooperation in the collaboration with AMCON toward recovering the enormous bad debts from recalcitrant obligors of AMCON.
While appreciating the immense contribution of the AMCON Desk at EFCC, Kuru who thanked the Acting Chairman for creating that unit that has led to several recoveries, added that AMCON is willing to provide the required support to the AMCON Desk at EFCC by providing information, logistics and training to the team to enable them carry out their assignment without hitches. He also thanked all EFCC staff that are currently on the AMCON Desk for a job well-done since it was established.
Recounting AMCON’s role in the economy especially in the banking sector also stated that since its establishment, AMCON acquired debts from 22 banks worth N3.7 trillion and provided financial accommodation to 10 banks of about N2.2 trillion. He observed that despite AMCON’s recovery efforts, the Corporation still holds unresolved loans in excess of N4.6trillion which represents about 75per cent of total national budget. The MD expressed concern that failure on the part of AMCON to resolve the debts will have far reaching implication for the nation at large.