N5trillion Debt Recovery: President Muhammadu Buhari Further Empowers AMCON

Following the recent signing into law the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (Amendment Act 2019) by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Corporation, we gather is set to go after some key persons among the top 350 high-profile debtors owing the agency over N5tn, it has been learnt. Buhari had on Wednesday announced the signing into law AMCON (Amendment Act 2019), which increases the powers of the corporation in enforcement of recovery of debt from persons owing legacy banks or seizure of property subject of loan obligation.

With the development, the agency has begun drawing a list of debtors including serving and ex-senators, reps, ex-governors and other prominent Nigerians whose account may be placed under surveillance as it ramps up efforts to recover the over N5tn debts. Aside from the enormous power the new law has given AMCON, the board and top executives of the bad debt manager is said to be looking at exploring the Asset Forfeiture clause whereby assets owned by some its debtors may be confiscated by the corporation.

It would be recalled that Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo SAN had during its meeting with the Board of the agency and other sister agencies of the government including the EFCC, ICPC, NFIU and the CBN asked AMCON to explore the Asset Forfeiture Clause. With the development, top sources at the agency who chose to speak on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the matter, also said some debtors who own private jets, houses in highbrow areas in Abuja and Lagos may lose them to the corporation.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate) to the President, Senator Ita Enang, on Wednesday had listed the AMCON Amendment Act 2019 among the three bills passed by the 8th National Assembly. They included the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (Amendment) Act, 2019, Defence Intelligence Agency Civilian Pensions Board (Establishment) Act, 2019 and National Biosafety Management Agency (`Amendment) Act, 2019.

Enang said that the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (Amendment) (No. 2) Act further amends the 2010 Act by increasing the powers of the commission in enforcement of recovery of debt from persons owing legacy banks or seizure of property subject of loan obligation. The statement read in part, “In particular, it empowers AMCON to:1 place any bank account or any other account comparable to a bank account of a debtor of an eligible financial institution under surveillance,
“2. obtain access to any computer system component, electronic or mechanical device of any debtor with a view to establishing the location of funds belonging to the debtor, and
“3. obtain information in respect of any private account together with all bank financial and commercial records of any debtor of any eligible financial institution, banking secrecy, and the protection of customer confidentiality is not a ground for the denial of the power of the Corporation under this section.’’

The new law, he said, makes it mandatory for AMCON to, despite the convention of confidentiality of banking, business and contracting relations to:‘’…furnish the Federal Government, Ministries, Departments and Agencies with a list of recalcitrant debtors and then impose an obligation to seek clearance on the Federal Government, Ministries, Departments and Agencies when the Federal Government, any Ministry, Department or Agency proposes to contract with, or pay, debtors on the list furnished by the Corporation.’’

“It further provides that: (1) all money standing to the credits of the Corporation in any bank account is deemed to be in the custody and control of the Corporation.
“(2) where any proceeding is pending in any court of competent jurisdiction by or any the Corporation, the grant of any interim, interlocutory or preservative order of attachment against the Corporation’s funds in any bank is prohibited.’’
“(3) the Corporation may require any eligible financial institution from which it has acquired an eligible bank asset or any director, manager or officer of such eligible financial institution to furnish information and produce documents, books, accounts and records in relation to any eligible bank asset acquired by the Corporation from such eligible financial institution or in relation to the borrower or other obligator connected with such eligible bank asset.”

Following the development, top management of AMCON, it was learnt, were perfecting plans on how to use the instrument of the law to recover all debts owed by some Nigerians who have refused to pay over the years before the sunset date. The agency is currently in courts with most of the debtors with cases pending in Supreme Court, FHC and Appeal court reaching as high as over 3,000. However, with the Amendment Act, security agencies including the EFCC, NFIU and ICPC may be reviewing the past banking activities of some customers and invite those with criminal intentions at the time the credit were booked by the banks.

When contacted, the spokesman of AMCON, Mr. Jude Chiedozie Nwauzor, confirmed that the new Act had definitely increased the power of the agency in recovering its debt, using all manner of instruments of the law. He, however, declined to give details of the strategies the corporation would be deploying against the debtors following the signing of the Amendment Act by the President.

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