•Panel to go after 20 top defaulters
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The federal government has set up a special task force to recover over N5 trillion owed the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
Membership of the task force comprises the heads of AMCON, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Ministry of Justice.
The taskforce is expected to work out and implement new strategies to bring to fruition the federal government’s determination to recover the money.
A statement yesterday by Mr. Laolu Akande, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesman, said the vice-president announced the constitution of the special task force during a meeting with board members and management of AMCON as well as selected heads of government agencies at the State House on Monday evening.
He listed agencies whose heads were in the meeting to include: Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu; Chairman, ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye; Director/Chief Executive, NFIU, Mr. Modibbo Tukur; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Sabiu Zakari and other senior government officials.
The statement quoted Osinbajo as telling the meeting that all relevant agencies had to re-strategise to achieve the desired results.
“The key is collaboration. We need a small team comprising these agencies to look at the next steps that we need to take, especially the criminal aspect, forfeiture and all of that.
“He said the task force should look at the top 20 AMCON defaulters closely and develop a plan of action that brings results.
“It would be recalled that the Vice President had previously in May met with AMCON management to discuss how to resolve the issue,” the statement said.
It also quoted AMCON Chairman, Mr. Muiz Banire (SAN), as saying that almost 67 per cent of the outstanding N5 trillion debt was owed by only 20 individuals or groups.
According to Banire, the agency has been “trying its best in its attempt to recover this through the civil judicial process, but had encountered several challenges.”
AMCON Managing Director, Mr. Ahmed Kuru, at the July 2019 Breakfast Meeting of the Nigerian – American Chamber of Commerce (NACC) held in Lagos on July 24, had expressed concern that the country might never recover about N5.5 trillion bad loans that the corporation took over during the banking crisis.
He had expressed dismay that some persons behind the huge amount of bad debt were presently occupying leadership positions in the country.
Kuru had accused some of the debtors of manipulating 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 suggest 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 N1trillion. 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 them. 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 understand the magnitude of what we are talking about, only 350 individuals account for 80 per cent of the debt amounting to N4.6trillion,” he had said.