- Accuses influential debtors of manipulating the system to escape repayment
Nume Ekeghe and Esther Oluku
Nigeria stands a chance of not being able to recover about N5.5 trillion bad loans that the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) took over during the banking crisis, according to the corporation.
AMCON Managing Director, Mr. Ahmed Kuru, told journalists yesterday in Lagos that some persons behind the huge bad debt presently occupy leadership positions in the country.
Kuru spoke at the July 2019 Breakfast Meeting of the Nigerian – American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), where he was the guest speaker.
He, however, said the corporation was working with other sister agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) to produce a detailed television documentary on notorious and recalcitrant obligors of AMCON.
According to him, the documentary is to document in a permanent format for generations yet unborn to know “the so-called big men and women that are behind the over N5 trillion debt burden, which AMCON is battling to recover.”
The worrisome aspect of the issue, he said, unlike what happens in other clime was that such obligors still manipulate their way to emerge as members of the National Assembly, ministers, chairmen and women of big organisations and pro-chancellors of universities.
“Sadly, 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 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 to 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 N1 trillion. In a decent society, those who are responsible are supposed to be held accountable.
“We are talking about recovering over N5 trillion 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. With such huge recovery, the country can do a lot in the areas of infrastructure development in energy; rail line, health, road construction and a whole lot more. To enable you to understand the magnitude of what we are talking about, only 350 individuals account for 80 per cent of the debt amounting to N4.6trillion,” Kuru added.
On why AMCON could not deal decisively with the obligors, Kuru told his audience that the Act establishing the corporation did not empower it to arrest and prosecute people like some other agencies of the government.
“As AMCON, we have no power to arrest these ‘powerful’ people as 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 2013/24; 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 urged members of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce to lead the campaign for the strengthening of corporate governance structures in both the financial services industry and other sectors of the economy as lack of it destroys institutions and organisations.
“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,” he stated.