President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to a new Act that gives the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) more power to enforce recovery of debt from prominent Nigerians and corporate organisations.
The President reportedly signed the amendment of the AMCON law on Wednesday, alongside the National Biosafety Management Agency (Amendment) Act and Defence Intelligence Agency Civilian Pensions Board (Establishment) Act, 2019.
According to a statement credited to the presidential aide on National Assembly, Senator Ita Enang, the new law empowers the Corporation to place any bank account or any other account comparable to a bank account of a debtor of an eligible financial institution under surveillance.
The details: The approval of the new law came weeks after a task force constituting all the antigraft agencies was set up by the Presidency, to fast track the effective recovery of the N5 trillion the corporation is battling with.
- The details of the new law show that AMCON will obtain access to bank accounts, computer system component, electronic or mechanical device of any debtor with a view to establishing the location of funds belonging to the debtor.
- Also, going by the new law, AMCON can now 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.
“It 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.”
The back story: Over 350 Nigerians are said to be responsible for over 80% of the N5 trillion debt profile of AMCON. The huge debts have lingered for several years.
- Basically, AMCON was set-up by the Federal Government in 2010 to acquire non-performing loans from banks in order to ensure the viability of the country’s financial sector.
- FG through the operation of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) conceptualized the idea for the establishment of a body that will prevent the financial crisis in the country.
- In October 2018, the corporation published about 20 names of corporations and agencies who hugely contribute to the debt.
- Meanwhile, in recent times, AMCON has threatened to publish the full list and also release a documentary on prominent Nigerians who owe the corporation.
EFCC to the rescue: Meanwhile, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has vowed to assist AMCON to recover monies being owed by individuals and business entities in Nigeria. The acting spokesman of the EFCC, Tony Orilade in a statement credited to Magu on Wednesday said,
“We are ready to work with you, and we will render assistance in terms of enforcement, in order to recover these loans, because they are affecting the economy of the country from flourishing.
“In order to recover these loans, there is the need for inter-agency collaboration, going beyond the EFCC to the police, the court, Central Bank of Nigeria, NDIC, because there is a need for AMCON to re-strategize and block loopholes.”
The bottom line: From the foregoing, AMCON is now empowered to blow hot on the debtors who are regarded as prominent Nigerians and big corporate organizations.
Already, AMCON announced the take over of two steel firms in Abuja and Calabar.