The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) at the midweek pledged collaboration to help the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) recover the outstanding N5tr owed by obligors.
Speaking in Abuja when he received a delegation of AMCON, led by its chairman, Dr. Muiz Banire, the commission’s Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, described the huge debt profile of AMCON as sobering, especially as it represents about 50% of Nigeria’s 2019 budget.
He said the debt has become an existential challenge for the country, lamenting that the few persons holding the country to ransom are still walking free and waxing stronger in the society.
Considering the positive impact, the funds would have in the economy if recovered, Owasanoye said the time has come for the ICPC and other relevant sister agencies to support the debt recovery drive.
He pledged the ICPC’s readiness to work with the Ahmed Lawan Kuru management of AMCON to recover as much of the debts as possible before the corporation’s sunset.
“We have to be practical in our approach. Something needs to be done and very fast too, given the approaching AMCON sunset because this is public funds we are talking about here.
“We need AMCON and ICPC to work closely and develop a strategy that would work. We need the public to know the opportunity cost of the huge debt to the Nigerian economy, we need to share information as sister agencies locally and internationally and treat this matter as a last lap race by setting up a joint task force to deal with this sobering issue,” he added.
The ICPC boss, expressed belief that the AMCON obligors be made to face the full weight of the law to serve as deterrent to others, stressing that failure to properly handle and challenge these matters in court, based on antecedents would embolden these set of people or their clones to “repeat this circle of borrowing and would tell you that in the past, some people borrowed and defaulted and nothing happened. So something has to be done.”
Also speaking, both Dr. Banire and Kuru listed some of the high-profile obligors of the corporation, including some 350 individuals that together account for 80% of the entire debt obligation.
They also reiterated the fact that AMCON would at this time in its lifespan need the collaboration of the ICPC to go after these obligors especially since AMCON on its own does not have the powers to invite, arrest or prosecute obligors as the only option open to AMCON remains the court.
Recalling that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had also expressed concerns over the huge debt in a similar forum, the ICPC Chairman also expressed the commission’s interest in tracing the transactional history of the different loans. Of particular interest, he said, are the high profile ones with a view to establishing any irregularity, which could have contributed to its hard-core nature, with obligors refusing to pay.