About 1.5 per cent of the Nigeria population are said to owe banks the sum of N5trn.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr. Ahmed Kuru, and a judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Mohammed Idris, said this in Abuja on Saturday.
They spoke at the AMCON interaction with Court of Appeal judges.
The event which held at the headquarters of the Court of Appeal in Abuja had the theme: ‘AMCON Regime: A paradigm shift in debt recovery.’
“At the moment we owe the Central Bank of Nigeria about N5trn and there are more than 3,000 cases in court as a result of our efforts to recover the funds,” Kuru said.
While fielding questions from justices of the Court of Appeal, Kuru said despite the sweeping powers conferred on AMCON by the corporation’s enabling Act, it had been difficult to recover the debts because many of the cases relating to them in court had been stalled a result of legal technicalities deployed by debtors’ lawyers.
He said, “Obviously due to technicalities, we have a number of our cases in court.
“I can say that we have more than 3,000 cases in court. Out of the cases, only 350 of them are responsible for 80 per cent of the N5trn. And 90 per cent of the 350 cases are in courts.”
He lamented the rate at which legal technicalities were being deployed by debtors’ lawyers to make the recovery of the debt impossible.
He said, “Somebody will go to court and will not be talking about the debts, he will be talking about some entries in his statement of account. That will take us to the Supreme Court and that may take years. That is why we always make appeals for cases to be fast tracked.”
He noted that debtors usually take the advantage of the law which provided for rights of anyone to approach the court for review of debt issues.
“Unless the cases end, there is no way we can recover those funds,” he said.
Justice Idris, a judge of the Federal High Court, the court with exclusive jurisdiction to handle AMCON-related cases, said the court had given “purposive interpretation” to the AMCON Act because of the need to recover huge debts, to save Nigerian economy and the financial system.
Idris said, “There is N5trn out there to be recovered. Most of the funds are owed by less than 1.5 per cent of Nigerians and these people have refused to pay. As far as they are concerned, nothing will happen to them.
“The economy must not fail and the financial system must not fail. This money must be recovered.
“If 1.5 per cent of Nigerians are holding the money, what happens to the remaining 98.5 per cent population?”
President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, described the mandate given to AMCON as herculean and critical to the continued survival of the nation’s economy.
Justice Bulkachuwa, said the Court of Appeal, would within the limits of the law, support AMCON’s activities
She advised AMCON and its lawyers to imbibe the spirit of “ingenuity, courage and dynamism” to accomplish the agency’s mandate. – Punch.