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AMCON: Between reviving and killing businesses

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If the statutory meaning of AMCON is Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, its practical, individualistic meaning is Asset Mismanagement Consortium of Nigeria. The reason is not farfetched.

Established by an Act of the National Assembly in July 2010 with an intended 10 years lifespan, AMCON is supposed to be an interventionist government institution. The enduring leitmotif was in consonance with such other agencies elsewhere as the National Asset Management Agency of the Republic of Ireland and the Malaysia Pengurusan Danaharta with similar responsibilities. Unfortunately, the tragedy of our current condition is borne out of the fact that an organization conceived to be a stabilizing tool aimed at resolving the non-performing loan assets of banks and corporate organizations is performing its statutory function only in the breach. If the three-fold mandate of AMCON which include: reducing the level of non-performing loans on the books of eligible banks; assisting in the recapitalization of banks deemed to be in grave danger, and managing all acquired assets in a manner consistent both with minimum resolution cost, is anything to go by, AMCON’s balance sheet is a sad tale of inconsistency and debauchery.

In May 2017, AMCON took over all the assets belonging to Wokson International Limited, an Asaba-based conglomerate and those of its principal, Dr. William Oki as ordered by a court through the Receiver Mr. Robert Ohuoba via a protective order from the court due to an alleged N5billion debt. At about the same time, AMCON again, announced its takeover of Gateway Portland Cement Limited in Ogun State over an alleged debt of about N3billion following an injunction granted against the company by the Federal High Court Abeokuta Division, Ogun State. Before then was the rift between AMCON and the Hardley Suites on Waziri Ibrahim Crescent, Victoria Island, Lagos. AMCON took over the sprawling Hardley Apartments owned by former Nigerian international soccer star and Africa’s legend, Nwankwo Kanu along with his ex-banker friend, Ayoola Gam-Ikon over alleged debt of N924million in January 2016. Another one is Aero Contractors, the oldest aviation company in the country owned by the wealthy Ibru family. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had halted all credits to the airline over an alleged $200million debt. In February 2016, the airline confirmed that the corporation had bought its debts making it the highest shareholder with 50 per cent equities of Aero Contractor. AMCON consequently appointed a chairman to oversee the operations of the airline. The rest is now history.

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Other companies that fell under AMCON’s hammer include the Daily Times of Nigeria Newspaper, which was taken over following an order by the Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Honourable Justice I. N. Buba in February 2018; Arik Air, arguably Nigeria’s largest local carrier which was taken over in February 2017 over an alleged debt of N135billion, just to mention a few. Reports have it that several companies that were hitherto operating marginally above insolvency have been drowned completely at the hands of AMCON. There are few other companies in the category of Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited that were affected adversely due to government’s deregulation and reregulation were caught in the web as they invested hugely on equipment and manpower. Such companies were understood voluntarily approached AMCON with proposal for support towards revamping the companies. In line with the duties of AMCON, instead of playing their role perfectly, most times pursued a different agenda of selling off assets of those companies, and allegedly to their cronies. At times, politics is allowed a determinant of which companies to be badly categorized.

For most discerning Nigerians, to argue therefore that the nation has transited from one democratic administration to yet another with politicians that lack democratic temperament, is to understate the matter. Also, for many dispassionate observers, our politicians have started displaying their poverty of commitment to the ideals and values of democracy. No patriotic Nigerian can contest that in all things, national interest or our collective destiny should superimpose individual or group considerations. At a time of grave national unease such as this, politics must be banished from its base and amoral platform, and seen as a game that should create the level playing field for the citizenry to leave a good legacy for future generations.

Just like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Federal Government should set up an administrative panel of inquiry to probe the activities of AMCON since its inception in 2010 before the new board headed by Lametek Edward Adamu commences operations. Impunity should not be encouraged in a democratic setting. AMCON should not be seen as an undertaker that must bury assumed “ailing” companies instead of reviving them.
Amor, a literary critic and journalist wrote from Abuja.

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