The revelation by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) that majority of those responsible for its N5.4 trillion debt portfolio are not ready to pay is, to say the least, disconcerting just as it is an affront to the sensibilities of Nigerians. Even more distressing is the fact that only about 350 Nigerians account for 80 per cent of the entire debt.
Disturbed by the obstinate posture of these debtors, AMCON, an agency of government saddled with the statutory responsibility of recovering the non-performing loan hitherto disbursed by banks to their customers, is threatening to seize the assets of the debtors who have continually proved uncooperative, if not recalcitrant.
Prior to the threat, AMCON had made several appeals and overtures to the debtors to liquidate their indebtedness but some have remained defiant while adopting perceived unwholesome means of avoiding recovery.
The Management of AMCON resort to forceful measures to recover the N5.4 trillion debts some of which have been in its record books for upwards of five years, is understandable especially in cases where the debtors’ appeal for staggered repayment had not yielded any positive result.
The 350 Nigerians or businesses are said to owe a whopping N4.3 trillion of the N5.4 trillion debt profile of the company, an amount that is over 50 per cent of the 2018 Budget. Sadly, these debtors are waiting for the nation to write-off the debts, which are currently sitting on the balance sheet of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In the opinion of this newspaper, the time is long overdue for AMCON to name and shame these debtors. It is appropriate in the circumstance that Nigerians are made to know who these debtors are and why they are reluctant to meet their obligations to AMCON.
We think that drastic situations involving some well-placed Nigerians believing that they have more right to the wealth of Nigeria than the rest of the people deserves drastic measures, which include publishing a detailed list of all erring debtors and directors where applicable.
It is our considered view that another way to get those evading their paybacks is to use the instrument of law. But that too has its own challenges with the lethargy in the judicial system. What obtains elsewhere outside Nigeria is to allow AMCON-equivalent institutions to own the assets ab-initio, which means they have paid for the loans from the commercial banks, take over the loan with the assets which can be sold at any time to recover the money.
It is not so in Nigeria as the debtor can decide to take AMCON to court, lock you up the entire transaction with judicial processes and technicalities for many years on end. It is from this perspective that we recommend, urgently, the amendment of the Act establishing AMCON, so as to further empower it to go after debtors, especially those taking advantage of the loopholes in the Act to perpetually engage the agency in court.
The National Assembly should speedily initiate legislative procedures that will bring about this about with the new law giving room for the extension of AMCON’s life span now that the Corporation is about winding up and in such a way that the assets of the obligor(s) are automatically transferred to AMCON.
Without gain saying it, AMCON needs legislative help that will make it possible for the agency to recover debts effectively and efficiently. In the face of the challenges facing the nation and the need to reposition the economy for optimal performance, recovering a whooping N5.4 trillion ought to be a desperate process involving all arms of government so as to facilitate the plans, policies and programmes intended to assure that justice is done.
While not being oblivious of the fact that it is practically impossible to recover the N5.4 trillion debt in one fell swoop, we are of the view that concerted efforts should be made, including exploring all available avenues in line with international best practices, to quicken every effort in this direction.
The Corporation, on its part, must tighten its own loose ends and adopt all the legally available means of debt recovery so as to ensure that this common wealth is brought to the nation’s coffers without delay. One thing is certain and that is the fact that the nation cannot afford to write-off these huge debts.