The Chief Judge of Federal High Court, Abuja Division, Hon. Justice Adamu Abdu Kafarati, has appealed to judges in Nigeria to support the debt recovery efforts of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
Justice Kafarati, made the appeal at the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Abuja when he addressed federal high court judges at an interactive session between the trio of NJI, AMCON and federal high court judges.
Describing AMCON’s assignment to recover over N5 trillion for the country as a national assignment, the Chief Judge also highlighted the crisis that would have hit the Nigerian economy if government did not establish AMCON at the time they did.
“That AMCON came to save the banks in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasised, so the corporation must be supported to recover the outstanding debt because AMCON also borrowed money to rescue the banks,” he said.
“My Lords, banks are drivers of the economy as they supply its oxygen. That is why during the 2008/2009 financial crisis in Nigeria, government intervened to support the banks by bailing them out in order to allow the financial system to continue functioning.”
He said if government had not intervened through the vehicle, which AMCON provided, a number of the banks in the country would have failed.
He said the judiciary must therefore collaborate with AMCON to recover every outstanding debt because with the purchase of the non-performing loans (NPLs), AMCON, he argued, is expected to maximize the value of asset recoveries and minimize costs to taxpayers.
Addressing the judges earlier, AMCON Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Ahmed Lawan Kuru, did not mince words acknowledging the overwhelming challenges AMCON is facing in the recovery of the outstanding debt, which he put at N5.4 trillion.
He said, “My Lords, it is clear to us now that we (AMCON) cannot go very far without the support of the courts because AMCON obligors deliberately raise technicalities in courts to elongate and delay their cases with AMCON.”
The AMCON boss informed that as a result of these antics, AMCON as part of its renewed strategy for recovering, decided earlier in the year to refocus its strategy by shifting gears from restructuring towards enforcements. He said, “It has become clear to us that in order to attain the target as we approach sunset, we must redouble our efforts in the areas of enforcement. The AMCON Act anticipated a situation where we may need to enforce if negotiations fail. Negotiation has failed us, given our sunset date. It is also clear to us that we cannot go very far without the strong support of the judiciary. Out of the 191,766 cases pending at the federal high court, more than 3,000 are related to AMCON alone.”
Explaining that AMCON is not a profit-making organization, Kuru however asserted that if the national assignment of recovering the N5.4trillion of bad debts is to be achieved, the AMCON practice direction must be strengthened and encouraged. But should AMCON fail to recover this huge debt at sunset, the impact, he stated will be catastrophic to Nigeria’s economy.