The Federal Government has begun a move to recover over N5 trillion outstanding debts owed the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
The government has formally inaugurated an inter-agency committee to speedily resolve the challenges in recovering the debts.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who inaugurated the committee on Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, charged its members to turn the tide in what has been a difficult process where debtors have continued to default in their payment obligations.
A statement yesterday by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the vice president, Laolu Akande, explained that about 67 per cent of the outstanding N5trillion debt is being owed by just 20 individuals/entities.
“One of the terms of reference is for the committee to prepare a report, giving us a sense of what the timelines would be,” the VP said.
Following the challenges encountered in the debt-recovery processes and the very limited results recorded so far, the committee is expected to consider other options, including taking enforcement measures in actually recovering the debts.
Osinbajo, who admonished the committee, which would be chaired by the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, to exhibit patriotism in the discharge of the mandate, expressed confidence in the expertise of the team to carry out the task ahead.
The members of the committee include heads and representatives of agencies such as AMCON, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), ICPC, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), and the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The panel, among other related tasks, is expected to review the status of debts owed to AMCON, deliberate on practical, legal and other strategies for the recovery of the debts, and prepare a report, which will include a debt recovery work plan with specific timelines for completion.
The chairman of the inter-agency committee thanked the vice president for the confidence reposed in the group, promising that members would do their best to recover most of the debts.
A development economist and financial expert, Prof. Ken Ife called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the loss of over N1 trillion in the value of the assets.
Ife, who was an adviser to the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo at the time of the consolidation , said some of the assets acquired were performing securities. He wondered why the value of the assets would so much depreciate instead of appreciating. He requested that a proper investigation should be undertaken to unravel the mystery.
“The presidency has done well by setting up the panel to reclaim the AMCON investments. But I know that there is more value to the assets than the N5 trillion they are peddling. I also know that at the time of the investments, some of the securities sold were performing stocks, so why would the value now be lower than they were at the time of purchase? I think the current assets are under-valued and someone needs to explain to Nigerians how we got to this point. This is another P&ID scam. We need to know what went wrong because we cannot continue to run our economy like this,’’ Ife posited.
In a related development, President Muhammadu Buhari has dissolved the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) as currently constituted with Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla as chairman.
Consequently, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has been directed to immediately take over all outstanding investigations and other activities of the SPIP.
The panel was established in August 2017 by the then Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, to investigate specifically mandated cases of corruption, abuse of office and similar offences by public officers.
President Buhari, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, yesterday thanked all members of the dissolved panel for their services.
Buhari said he looked forward to receiving the final ICPC report on the ongoing investigations of the dissolved panel’s chairman.
Meanwhile, the office of the vice president has flayed a report (not in The Guardian) which claimed that President Buhari had directed Osinbajo to seek approvals for agencies under him.
A statement by Akande yesterday said: “The report suggests, falsely, that agencies under the supervision of the Vice President do not normally comply with established rules where presidential approvals are required.
“This is obviously misleading and aims only to plant seeds of discord in the presidency while attempting to create unnecessary national hysteria.
“The agencies in question were established by law and the vice president has always insisted on due compliance with the enabling statutes and other established regulations.
“Depending on the particular scope of activity in question, agencies may require management approval only, at the level of the director general or chief executive officer. In this category falls the great majority of their day-to-day activities.
“However, other activities, or procurements, with value exceeding a certain threshold, require board approval. These may get to the agency board chaired by the vice president. In a few cases where presidential approval is required, the director-general must seek such approval from the president, through the vice president. These rules have always guided the activities of statutory agencies and the ones under the vice president’s supervision have always been so guided,” he explained.
According to Akande, “To claim that since the first term of the Buhari administration, agencies of government have not been complying with the provisions (of getting final approvals from the president) is false, and the attempt to suggest the vice president’s complicity in such irregularities is simply mischievous and reprehensible.”