As the noose on obligors of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) tightens in line with its latest enforcement strategy, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Asaba at the weekend reechoed the fact that the task to strengthen AMCON’s recovery drive remains a national concern and a huge burden to the judiciary and the country as a whole.
He, therefore, called for concerted efforts from critical stakeholders especially the judiciary to enable AMCON to recover the over N5trillion outstanding debt. Dimgba was one of the guest speakers at the 2019 Annual Seminar for External Solicitors and Asset Management Partners (AMPs), which ended at Eko Hotel, Lagos at the weekend.
Mr. Ahmed Lawan Kuru, Managing Director/CEO of AMCON had set the tone of discussion when he called on AMCON council and AMPs to take advantage of the special provision on accelerated hearing of AMCON matters since the Practice Rules allow the courts to sit from day-to-day, even on the weekends, at their discretion.
AMCON’s Move: The AMCON boss said AMCON has noticed increased incidences of obligors taking advantage of the appeal process to deny the corporation the benefit of favourable judgments obtained. He, however, disclosed that AMCON was now conscious of the availability of the opportunity to request the courts to order litigants to deposit judgment consideration with the court registrars, which he said will mitigate the practice of obligors deliberately dragging their matters in court.
Justice Dimgba’s Position: The Justice, who delivered a paper titled “Responsibilities and Liabilities of Receivers/Managers Under the AMCON Regime and the Relevance of Winding-up/Bankruptcy Proceedings and Liquidation in AMCON’s Recovery Drive,” called on the judiciary to partner AMCON to ensure that the corporation meets its mandate before its sunset, which is fast approaching.
He said the issue of AMCON’s recovery drive has become a complex question that has vexed the thoughts and deliberations of policymakers; AMCON executives; and even the average Nigerian citizen (as AMCON oversees funds that trace their roots to the taxpayer).
Supporting the position of Kuru, Dimgba also challenged AMCON’s external counsel to familiarize themselves with the laws of the country, the AMCON Act as amended; the practice direction; the Federal High Court AMCON Proceeding Rules 2018 and the Federal High Court Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Rules, 2018, which he said will better equip them to reasonably assist AMCON, as well as the nation, recover the humongous debt obligation of AMCON.
Why this is important: Dimgba, said the success of AMCON in this light will help stabilise the economy of Nigeria, adding that it was sad that AMCON’s attempts to recover value from the non-performing loans stands at a paltry 20 percent. In the light of growing agitations for salary increases, investments in the tertiary, and improved healthcare, the judge disclosed that these alarming figures, therefore, required all stakeholders to assist AMCON to fully utilize its statutory powers, in order to deliver its mandate under the AMCON Act, just as the country’s economy stands to benefit a lot from the recovery.
“AT THE TIME ITS ENACTMENT IN 2010, THE LETTER AND SPIRIT OF THE AMCON ACT WAS NOT TOO DIFFERENT FROM THE LAWS ON INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY THAT HAD HITHERTO EXISTED IN THE COUNTRY IN THAT ITS CHIEF AIM WAS TO ENSURE THAT THE CREDITORS OF A FINANCIALLY SICK COMPANY DID NOT SUFFER TOTAL LOSS OF THEIR INVESTMENTS IN THE SAID COMPANY. THE GENERAL FEELING APPEARS TO BE THAT THE AMCON ACT WAS PRO-CREDITORS. THUS, EVEN THOUGH HAILED FOR BEING INNOVATIVE IN MANY REGARDS, AS AT THE TIME IT WAS ENACTED, NO COMMENDATIONS COULD HAVE BEEN DUE ON THE BASIS OF BEING INTERESTED IN THE BUSINESS RESCUE OF THE DEBTOR-COMPANY.
“HOWEVER, THE AMENDMENT TO THE AMCON ACT IN 2015, WHICH WAS A RESPONSE FROM THE CALLS BY STAKEHOLDERS, GAVE AMCON THE ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITY TO DO WHAT IS LEGALLY POSSIBLE AND REASONABLE TO “RECOVER” THE FINANCES OF THE AILING COMPANY AND MAKE IT FINANCIALLY VIABLE AGAIN.” -DIMGBA
Also speaking at the seminar tagged “The Dynamic and Proactive Deployment of AMCON Special Powers and Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Effective and Efficient Resolution of Troubled Assets,” which was co-organised by Legal Academy led by Dr. Fatihu Abba; Mr. Francis Chuka Agbu SAN, PhD, the Managing Partner of Lexavier Partners; Justice A. .M Liman; Justice I.N.Buba; JusticeC.M.A. Olatoregun and Mr. Olugbenga Bello were unanimous in urging AMCON’s external council go all out to assist AMCON to meet its mandate.