Uche Usim, Abuja
Hard times await obligors to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) as the Federal government has vowed to seize their payments and ostracize them from future public dealings in its efforts to narrow the Corporation’s debt to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) currently pegged at N5 trillion.
This is as the Corporation acquires over 12,000 non-performing loans worth approximately N3.7 trillion from 22 commercial banks while injecting N22 trillion as financial accommodation to 10 banks.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed gave what sounded like a debtor’s last warning in Abuja at the weekend while inaugurating the board of AMCON.
According to her, the direct impact of AMCON soaking up the debt has led to the protection of about N3.66 trillion of depositors’ funds and saving approximately 14,000 jobs in the process.
She emphasised that the government was determined to recover its money and as such would not write off the debts of obligors because AMCON’s debts equally sit excruciatingly on the government’s balance sheet with CBN.
She added that debtors payments will be put under lien until they enter into a resolution agreement with AMCON.
The Minister said: “AMCON’s repayment of its indebtedness to the CBN was hitherto over N1trillion. AMCON’s total debt obligation to the CBN is currently in excess of N5 trillion. It is evident that the Federal Government cannot afford to write off this debt in the short term, hence, our moral obligation to pursue obligors and recover the debts owed.
“AMCON has been able to recover over N1trillion since inception to the 2018 year end. Out of the recovered sum, cash accounted for 60 per cent, while non-cash assets such as properties and equity securities accounted for the balance of 40 per cent”.
Ahmed said she has been sufficiently briefed on some of the challenges facing the Corporation, which includes obligors resorting to all manner of tactics to avoid honouring their obligations.
“While some are still enjoying government patronage, others are using the judiciary and adopting legal technicalities to stall recovery.
The Minister explained that AMCON has two major roles.
“One is to bail out banks through the purchase of non-performing loans, and the second is to recover the loans from the obligors.
“It has successfully bailed out the banks, it is now at a stage where it must recover the debts. Failure to recover may result in serious consequences including recourse to taxpayers’ money which must be avoided.
“For an organisation with a sunset date, all hands must be on deck to provide the support required. Considering the huge portfolio of debt, no obligor must be allowed to go scot-free no matter how highly placed”, she said.
In his remarks at the inauguration, the Managing Director of AMCON Mohammed Kuru lamented that the most difficult challenge of the Corporation was debt collection. “When we took over, we saw the body language of this government. We know that with the inauguration of this board, things will be more efficient. The turnaround time will be faster.
“It is not an easy task but the Act has provided for the situation that we are going through. We have been able to recover N1trillion but we have more than N5trillion that is outstanding. If today AMCON disposes of all that is in its possession, we may be able to recover maybe N1trillion, willing buyer-willing seller because the framework provides that it should be able to accommodate the N2.2trillion because most of the assets we are holding are from the banks and they were overvalued. So if today I sell all the assets in my possession-if there is a willing buyer- I won’t be able to recover N1trillion.”
He then appealed to the Finance Minister to ensure that those obligors in its books must pay.
“Those that are doing big business with the government must be made to settle either with AMCON or Inland Revenue because they can’t be owing and still want to do business with the government.”
In his speech, the Chairman of the newly-inaugurated AMCON board Mr. Muiz Banire assured the Minister that board members and management of AMCON will live up to expectation and not fail in their assignment.
Banire also maintained that AMCON in the discharge of its duties will work within the ambit of the law.