The Senate Tuesday considered a critical bill seeking to empower the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), in the aspect of assets recovery, as well as strengthen it against economic sabotage by debtors with unpaid loans to the tune of about N16 trillion naira.
The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) Amendment Bill 2021, which scaled second reading on the floor was sponsored by Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central).
Leading debate on the bill, Bamidele said, the main aim of the amendment is to update a few clauses in the Act that have been hampering the Operations of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria.
According to him, “under the current Act, the continued smooth operation of AMCON is threatened by the tenor put on a key funding provision for AMCON.
“Therefore, the proposed amendment is designed to allow for more flexibility in the tenor of this key funding provision”.
Bamidele emphasized further that the amendment would strengthen AMCON in stabilizing Nigeria’s banking sector and empower the agency in carrying out its functions of assets and debt recovery.
He said, “Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, AMCON is a very important and strategic national institution that must be strengthened to effectively contribute to the stabilization of the banking sector in Nigeria.
“It proved its mettle in the banking crises of 2009. Our economy still grapples with huge challenges. Tahe banking sector is not immune from the difficulties we face. We must therefore review and amend the AMCON Act (2014) in order to reinvent and reposition AMCON to optimally perform its functions.
“In particular, this amendment will strengthen the hands of AMCON in assets recovery. AMCON must be reenergized to tackle the problem of toxic loans.
“Highly placed debtors have been employing different strategies and tactics to stall the repayment of loans. Cases drag on in courts for many years. AMCON has remained at the receiving end of this well laid and orchestrated acts of economic sabotage.
“As patriots, we have an obligation to empower AMCON and make its assets recovery efforts less cumbersome. We must remove all obstacles to its smooth operations. We must safeguard our banking sector and the economy in these trying times.”
Contributing, Senator Uba Sani (APC, Kaduna Central) emphasized that, AMCON largely depend on the resources from the resolution fund, and failure to extend this amendment bill will certainly affect the operation of AMCON and it may force the government to bear the entire cost of debt management of AMCON.
On his part, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC, Kebbi Central), said the amendment will give teeth to AMCON to recover all debts that were given to private individuals and also companies.”
Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf (APC, Taraba Central) underscored the need for extending the tenor of AMCON, adding that doing so would rescue Nigeria’s financial and banking systems from the burden of loans obtained by individuals.
The lawmaker also called on the Judiciary to work with the intendment of the amendment bill by ensuring that debtors face the weight of the law and are made to pay all loans.
His words: “We have no option but to extend the tenure of AMCON because AMCON is carrying a contingent liability that which is sovereign to the tune of nearly N6 trillion naira.
“Loans that were private in the past have now been made a sovereign loan, so we are all carrying this as a result of past errors of commission done by the banking system”.
Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South), in his own contribution , called for an insertion of a criminal clause in the amendment bill that makes it possible for debtors to be detained by the courts, and the payment of half the total amount owed made a mandatory condition for granting them bail.
“It is not sufficient enough to extend the tenor of AMCON and give it the power to reinvent and reposition itself so that it can optimally perform.
“If the desire is to recover these loans, we may have to go back to introduce a criminal element into this recovery process.
“So, when we introduce the criminal element into this matter, what it means is that the 16 trillion that we are taking about, we will get more than N8 trillion immediately, because this money is with them.
“They are just using the Judicial process to frustrate the recovery these monies. When it comes to the committee level, one of the inventions that this Senate can do, is to insert a criminal element into it that gives court the power to detain and refuse bail until half of the amount owed is paid as a condition for granting bail.
“Once we do this, it will be a radical departure from all these misuse of court process to hang on to what does not belong to you. And, I think that this one of the nest decisions this senate can take as far as this matter is concerned.
“It is even more so, because the banking sector will continue to do this as long as a decisive action is not taken this misuse”, he said .!!!
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, referred the bill after it scaled second reading to the Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions for further legislative work.
The Committee which is Chaired by Senator Uba Sani was given four weeks to turn in its report.