News - December 14, 2021

Judiciary must take responsibility for AMCON’s N4.4trn debt recovery, says NJI Boss

Picture:
L-R Binta Nyako, Federal High Court, Abuja; Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, AMCON, Ahmed Kuru, and Justice J.T. Tsoho, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja at the just-ended training and interaction between the Judges of the Federal High Court under the auspices of the National Judicial Institute and AMCON in Abuja…Monday

The recovery of the over N4.4trillion outstanding debt to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) will depend on the judiciary effectively discharging its role to help AMCON execute its mandate, the Administrator of the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Justice Salisu Garba Abdullahi, has said.

Addressing Federal High Court Judges in Abuja on Monday during the 2021 annual conference/interaction with relevant government agencies in the country, Abdullahi said the strategic role played by AMCON to ensure the financial stability of the country’s economy cannot be over-emphasized as it plays a major role in making key recoveries for the government against varying challenges posed by the mechanism of adjudication.

The theme of this year’s interaction was: “The Federal High Court in the Digital Age, For Economic Development and the Stability of the Financial System.”

Abdullahi looked at the huge outstanding debt AMCON has to recover from various individuals and organizations and lamented its critical role in the financial sector, and the resistance from obligors in the recovery drive.

He said the judiciary cannot afford to take a backseat approach to the issue, adding that they must strive to exercise its responsibility with passion and vigour to help AMCON realize its mandate.

The NJI Administrator said the feedback received over the years helped in improving the debt recovery efficiency of AMCON through the different amendments to the AMCON Act.

These amendments to the principal instrument in 2015 and 2019 made it possible for the Corporation to enjoy some special powers fortified with the 2020 AMCON Rules at the Federal High Court.

In his own remark, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice J.T. Tsoho, who supported the position of the NJI Administrator, said it was because the Federal High Court recognized the strategic importance of the AMCON assignment that the Judiciary in the country has been very supportive of AMCON’s recovery activities, especially with the very many cases AMCON has in the courts.

He said AMCON was indispensable to the stability of the financial system in the country and the real economy by offloading toxic assets of banks.

“As a child of necessity, the Corporation has a terminal date that is fast approaching. It is in recognition of the peculiarities of AMCON that I constituted AMCON Task Force Judges in our Court and also approved a new Federal High Court AMCON Proceedings Rules, 2020.

“I believe that these prescriptions will ensure the contextual interpretation and expedient realization of the AMCON mandate as captured in various amendments to the AMCON Act. I also hasten to add that all of us are encouraged to fast-track the hearing and determination of AMCON matters before us. Certainly, the significance of the Corporation to the Nigerian Financial System Stability was critical to my decision to integrate them into our 2021 Annual Legal Year.”

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of AMCON, Ahmed Lawan Kuru, while thanked the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice J.T Tsoho for the opportunity to attend the event, adding that the interaction was coming at time when the Corporation was reviewing its strategy towards sunset and when the Chief Judge has constituted an AMCON task force.

Kuru said the gesture would not only help speed up the time with which AMCON cases were heard and determined but also assist the Corporation in achieving its mandate prior to the closing date for the assignment, which is fast approaching.

AMCON, Kuru said, was in need of speed and strategy, especially from the Judiciary as far as handling the AMCON matters, with the total current exposure on all Eligible Bank Assets (EBAs) in the portfolio of AMCON at over N4.4 trillion.

“Of this huge sum, only 350 outstanding obligors account for 83% of the total EBA balance; 244 of the top 350 obligors are in various courts, while the collateral coverage is only 16% of the total current exposure.

“As AMCON gradually approaches its sunset date, we need to reemphasize our position and your Lordships support as we hope to deliver on this National assignment. AMCON’s success is largely dependent on the Judiciary.

“We still have many cases pending with the various divisions of the courts. These matters are very vital to the success of the Corporation and particularly as we know that if we are unable to resolve them, it becomes a burden on our country’s debt profile and taxpayer’s money.

“With the help of the Judiciary, AMCON has been able to make notable progress, especially in enforcement. Granting of Exparte Orders (EOs) has compelled most recalcitrant obligors to come to the negotiation table.

“We have repeatedly made the point at every opportunity that all stakeholders must view the AMCON mandate as one of serious national importance. If at sunset AMCON is unable to recover the huge debt of over N4.4trillion, it becomes the debt of the Federal Government of Nigeria for which taxpayers’ monies will be used to settle.

“The implication is that the general public will be made to pay for the recklessness of only a few individuals who continue to take advantage of the loopholes in our laws to escape their moral and legal obligations to repay their debts. We should not allow a few individuals to escape with our commonwealth. And we want to do it within the confines of the law,” the AMCON boss stated.

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