The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is seeking collaboration with relevant government agencies, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to block 12,537 mega debtors from contesting elections.
AMCON data showed that 62 high profile debtors owe it N10 billion and above each, representing 40 per cent of the 12,537 obligors under its management.
Another 431 debtors, representing 37 per cent of the debtors, owe between N1 billion and N10 billion.
To be affected also are 1,998 debtors, constituting 16 per cent of the total obligors, that owe between N100 million and N1 billion, while 10,046 debtors, representing seven per cent of the total obligors owe between N100 million and below, bringing the total number of bad loans under AMCON management to 12,537.
Other agencies that would be involved in the plan are Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Department of State Security (DSS) and the Police.
AMCON has been emboldened by the successful amendment of the AMCON Act 2019, which gives it special powers to tackle billionaire debtors.
The Corporation is expected to provide a comprehensive database of the affected obligors to the identified agencies for the execution of the plans.
Proposing the plan to AMCON, Justice Cecilia Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Lagos said that with the signing of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) (Amendment) Act 2019 into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, the management of AMCON could adopt a new strategy including partnering with other sister agencies of government to stop its debtors from occupying elective positions.
Speaking at the 2019 External Solicitors and Asset Management Partners (AMPs) of AMCON seminar organised by the Firm of Legal Academy in Lagos, Justice Olatoregun said the society has continued to allow AMCON debtors and people who cannot honour a simple obligation to contest elections, and in most occasions win and eventually occupy exalted offices.
He said: “It is in our constitution that people of questionable characters and criminals should not contest elections but we are yet to see confident lawyers that can come out and challenge this people beyond reasonable doubt that they are not eligible to stand for elections as a result of their heavy indebtedness.”
She disclosed that the AMCON (Amendment) Act 2019 has opened new doors, which smart lawyers can explore to help the agency, AMCON, and indeed Nigeria recover these huge debts.
She said: “When election is approaching, lawyers can boldly approach the court and get orders stopping such obligor candidates from seeking votes from Nigerians thereby helping the economy.
“Lawyers need to understand that the over N5.4 trillion owed AMCON belongs to all Nigerians, including the lawyers. Recovering the outstanding debt will have huge positive impact on the development of the economy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
AMCON’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Ahmed Kuru, also backed Justice Olatoregun’s stand on the mega debtors. The AMCON boss lamented the over N5.4 trillion debt would become a burden to the Federal Government if at sunset, AMCON failed to recover them.
He said the amended Act has provided additional powers to an already strong Act of AMCON to take legal actions against recalcitrant debtors.
Kuru explained that it was not unusual to periodically amend the law that governs activities of organisations such as AMCON, to deal with obligors that constantly try to avoid, circumvent and totally deny commitments and obligations.
The AMCON boss added: “However, the amendment can only be effective to the extent that solicitors of AMCON understand the Act and thereafter utilise the far-reaching powers that have been vested in the Corporation.
“In our experience, even prior to the amendment, not all the provisions of the Act were effectively utilised. From our interaction with the judiciary, some judges are not very impressed with the approach of solicitors to the application of the unique provisions of the AMCON Act. In some instances, judges have had to direct lawyers to relevant provisions of the Act. It is said that some lawyers are not at home with the provisions of the Act, particularly the AMCON special powers provided in the law.
“The AMCON (Amendment) Act, 2019 is very robust, and we urge you to take advantage of the provisions to safeguard our collective public interest. That should be taken together with the 2010 Act and the 2015 amendment. It is important that we express our determination to recover the over N5.4 trillion debt giving its implication on the economy. We should not allow a few individuals to escape with our commonwealth. And we want to do it within the confines of the law.”
Kuru urged legal practitioners, especially those handling AMCON related cases to sit up and test the full strength of the amended Act especially in the face of hard fighting obligors of AMCON in the overall interest of the economy and development of the country.
The corporation was established on July 19, 2010, when AMCON Act was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan, with a mandate to acquire bad loans from banks, pay the banks and recover the loans from the debtors. The Nation