Senate, on Wednesday, passed the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) Amendment bill.
The passage of the bill followed the consideration of a report by the Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions.
The amendment bill passed by the chamber empowers the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria to, amongst others, take possession, manage or sell all properties traced to debtors, whether or not such assets or property is used as security/collateral for obtaining the loan in particular.
It also empowers the corporation to access the Special Tribunal established by the BOFIA, 2020 for dealing with financial related matters.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Uba Sani (APC, Kaduna Central), in his presentation said the Committee engaged with stakeholders such as AMCON, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Central Bank of Nigeria; and Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).
According to the lawmaker, the stakeholders in their submissions pushed for AMCON to be empowered to take possession, manage, foreclose or sell, transfer, assign or otherwise of property used as security for eligible bank assets among others, adding that, “this will provide for a quicker, easier and legitimate process of assets disposal.”
The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central), during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, sought to know the rationale behind the recommendation of the Committee in clause two, which empowers AMCON to take possession of assets outside of those used as collateral in obtaining a loan request.
He said, “the essence of collateral, is that in the event of default, you lose that asset. What I am reading here is that in addition to seizing that asset, they (AMCON) want to go beyond that to every other asset or property that is traceable to the debtor. I think I need some clarifications to that.”
Another lawmaker, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North East) argued that “you cannot go outside the asset presented for the facility.”
Senator Adamu Aliero, however, explained that “Mr Chairman, if you can recall, during debate on this bill, Senators made it abundantly clear that these debtors are taking government money, and they are using it freely and going free, and we need stringent measures to be enforced to recover the money.”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, at this point, called for voting on the contentious clause, which eventually was adopted by lawmakers in the majority, following Lawan’s ruling.
After the passage of the bill, Senators Bassey Akpan and Chukwuka Utazi, while relying on a Point of Order put forward by the former, contested the ruling of the Senate President by requesting for a division.
Interjecting, the Senate President said, “when we come to legislate, we all come here with a very clear mind, that we are doing this for our country, we don’t have any interest but the national interest.
“[And] when the majority of our colleagues here in their judgement feel that this is the right thing to do, that’s the majority view, unless we have any cause to reverse ourselves.
“If the majority of Senators say that this is what they feel should be done to remedy a situation that requires our attention, I think we should allow that.
“[And] besides, I believe we had explanations from the Committee members who went through all the processes, so, I believe that we should let it go.
“Let the people go to court to test it, but our hope and desire are for AMCON to be able to recover huge sums of money – trillions that people have taken and now is on the head of Nigerians. And, it is criminal, really. People will consciously take money. I will advise that we stick to our decision.”
Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South) and Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), advocated for the inclusion of a proviso amid the AMCON amendment, so as to give it precedence over any other law that may be used to cite an instance of conflict.
“We have to put a clause to say, ‘notwithstanding the provisions obtained in any other law to enable the law take effect,” Na’Allah suggested.
Chukwuka Utazi, on his part, kicked against the clause empowering AMCON to take possession of assets traced to debtors, explaining that, “most of the banks that have those bad debts colluded with the customers in doing that in the first place.”
Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East), while citing the Senate rules, observed that “it will be out of order to reconsider any specific question, upon which the Senate has come to a conclusion during the current session, except upon a substantive motion or decision.”
“All the discussion we are making on it now is of no value, they are not supposed to be recorded because we have come to a decision on it. It may be wrongly or rightly, but we have ended it”, Sekibo added.
Thereafter, the Senate President ruled Senator Akpan’s call for a division out of order, against the backdrop of the provision of the Senate Rule cited by Sekibo.