Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) says it is committed to supporting businesses in distress in the overall interest of the country’s economy.
The Managing Director/CEO of AMCON, Mr Ahmed Lawan Kuru, regardless of the campaign of calumny against the debt recovery agency, it will continue to pursue to pursue its mandate — debt recovery and giving “oxygen” to businesses that can be resuscitated to pay back its debts.
He told a media parley in Lagos that developments in the nation’s aviation industry are worrisome especially Arik Air, Aero Contractors, the proposed NG Eagle and others.
“The challenge of Sir Arumemi Johnson’s Arik Air Limited (in Receivership) under the auspices of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), may seem difficult, but the situation is not irredeemable. There is always a way out of every resolution situation.
“However, there must be a situation of give and take, which is what we (AMCON) have been trying to achieve. We are ready to sit down with the owner or owners of Arik if they are ready to agree on what makes sense to us, to them, and the Federal Government. Same with Aero Contractors.
“When we engage and arrive at that agreement, we will, as AMCON, go back to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as well as the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and share such resolution strategy with them.
“If you recall, in the past, we resolved issues that are more difficult and more complicated than the Arik issue in the banks, oil and gas, manufacturing sector, real estate and investment, automobile, telecommunications, just to mention a few.
“But for any resolution to take place, the two parties or the parties involved must have an understanding. We are convinced that there is always a way out,” the AMCON boss said.
Kuru said: “Lately, especially since the coming of a new administration led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, there has been heightened campaign by some recalcitrant AMCON debtors, especially from its aviation portfolio, that seeks to evoke the emotion of the public to perceive AMCON and its recovery activities from negative optical prism, not minding the huge problem their debt to the Federal Government has caused the country.
“But those pushing that negative campaign forgot that Arik, at the time, had about 50 per cent passenger load before AMCON took over in 2017 under a receivership arrangement.
“Because the government of the day was interested in saving the airline due to its strategic role in Nigeria’s aviation sector, it felt strongly that the airline must be saved from imminent collapse and national embarrassment.
“At the time the government mandated AMCON to intervene in Arik, the airline was not paying salary, insurance and could not afford to buy aviation fuel to keep the planes flying.
“Nobody, including some key aviation international partners, wanted to do business with Arik, among other issues. Everything was wrong with Arik as the airline delayed flights for two to three days in a row while its aircraft were being arrested abroad, which is a big embarrassment to the country.
“If AMCON had not stepped in at the time the government asked AMCON to intervene, Arik would have gone under within two weeks.
“AMCON is a resolution agency of the government, and we look forward to any obligor or debtor that wants to come discuss with us with repayment plans. Our doors are always open to resolve debts because that is our primary function.
“Aside from our recovery mandate, AMCON does not have a secret agenda. Transparency for us is very key. But, we also know that misinformation is part of the game, which is what some of our obligors specialise in but we want the media to know that we are very ready to provide accurate information.
“We deal with people who have interests and have issues with the organisation. It is nothing personal.
“The job we do at AMCON is not easy and I must commend my colleagues in AMCON – the staff – because of their commitment against all odds. It is a difficult assignment, I must say.
“”We deal with people who are in distress, and people desperately not ready to engage. When some of them (the obligors) heard the news of the proposed AMCON sunset, they stopped picking our calls.
“So, in their mind, they believe AMCON would soon close shop, which would mean that the government would write-off the debt. I want to state here today that the process of winding AMCON down will be a process, and nobody, no government would allow any debtor walk away. It is not possible.”
On the bad debts being owed banks, Kuru said: “AMCON is conscious of the fact that it is dealing with obligors who are doing legitimate business but have taken loans they could not service that resulted in bad debts that the banks could not recover, which AMCON eventually bought over, and was mandated by the government, backed by the AMCON Act as amended, to recover.
“As such, AMCON tries as much as possible not to put the issues involving obligors on the pages of newspapers. But the obligor at every opportunity tries to send half-truths to the public to make AMCON look bad.
“The fact is that AMCON’s task is herculean. Some of these businesses had been in intensive care and needed to be revived. They also took loans that have accumulated interests and must be recovered to stabilise the businesses.”
While noting that some of the obligors have remained recalcitrant and do not want to pay the debt they owe, Kuru said even when some of the debtors appear to be doing very well.
“Some have refused to discuss with AMCON on viable repayment plans believing that they can stall the pressure to pay by instituting court cases that delay recoveries.
“Consequently, AMCON has more than 3,000 cases in various courts,” Kuru said.