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N5trn AMCON Debt: FG May Bar Debtors From Holding Public Office

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Tough time awaits Nigerians and corporate bodies involved in the lingering N5 trillion debt to the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). Apart from pursuing the recovering of the debt through the courts, the federal government may bar such persons from holding elective and appointed offices.

In its continued search for more viable ways to quickly recover the huge debt, AMCON in partnership with some concerned judges and lawyers, have evolved more strategic and workable means that could lead to the debtors being made to liquidate their debt without further delay.

After reviewing the antecedents of the debtors and the various overtures of the federal government, which they have ignored, the stakeholders asked AMCON to work with other agencies to prevent the debtors from occupying elective and appointed offices.

Specifically, AMCON under the new offensive, will send a list of the debtors to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the anti-graft agencies to ensure that the obligors are barred from future elections.

For those already in elective positions, the federal government will use the anti-graft agencies to ensure their prosecution and recovering of the money. But for those eyeing future elections or seeking re-election after their current tenure, the noose would be tightened on them unless they redeem their image.

It was learnt that these are among the proposals that AMCON may present to the Inter-agency Committee, which the federal government recently set up on the recovering of the agency’s debt.

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, prevents citizens of questionable characters and criminals from contesting elections, which LEADERSHIP learnt, AMCON may explore in the new debt recovery campaign. 

Among judicial officers, who advised the government to bar the debtors from contesting in future polls, is Justice C.M.A. Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Lagos.

She told AMCON to partner with other agencies of the government to stop the recalcitrant debtors from gaining access to political positions by barring them from contesting future elections.

The judge stated this as the chairperson of a one-day seminar for External Solicitors and Asset Management Partners (AMPs) of AMCON which was organised by the firm of Legal Academy.

The spokesman of AMCON, Jude Nwauzor, alluded to this last night when he told LEADERSHIP that the “corporation will be looking into adopting the strategy which will ensure that none of its obligors hold political or leadership positions in the country. Although it was a suggestion by the judge, AMCON will be exploring the option.”

Uzor continued: “I think it is something that will work because some of our obligors actually obtained forms from INEC, contested elections and won and they are now officers in the Senate. If somebody had been listed by AMCON and a list (of obligors) given to INEC and the person goes to buy form, they (INEC) will say go and clear your debt before you buy form.

“Then, if the person does not clear the debt he would not contest. The more we don’t let such people into government offices the better for the economy because we will begin to check those in government,” he stated.

Like other participants at the event held in Lagos, Justice Olatoregun told AMCON to send a comprehensive list of its obligors to INEC, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigeria Police, among other sister agencies to stop them from contesting elections or taking up leadership positions in Nigeria.

She argued that with the strategy, AMCON lawyers can approach the court and get orders stopping such obligor candidates from seeking votes from Nigerians, an action, the judge asserted would help the country and its economy.

According to her, lawyers need to understand that the over N5 trillion owed AMCON belongs to all Nigerians including the legal practitioners, meaning that recovering the money would have serious positive impacts on the development of the economy of Nigeria.

Olatoregun said: “It is in our constitution that people of questionable characters and criminals should not contest elections but we are yet to see confident lawyers that can come out and challenge these people beyond reasonable doubt that they are not eligible to stand for elections as a result of their heavy indebtedness.”

She noted that the AMCON (Amendment) Act 2019 had opened new doors, which lawyers can explore to help the agency and Nigeria to recover the huge debt.

In his welcome remarks, AMCON managing director and chief executive officer, Mr Ahmed Lawan Kuru, lamented the huge debt, which would eventually become a burden to the federal government if at sunset AMCON failed to recover the money.

He said that the interaction was very important to AMCON because, besides being a regular event, which produces positive results in the quest to recover the debt, the seminar was the first since the amendment of the Act by the National Assembly, which has been signed into law by President Buhari.

The AMCON boss, who noted that the amended Act has provided additional powers to an already strong Act, said: “It was a challenging process, but we owe a debt of gratitude to the National Assembly and indeed President Muhammadu Buhari, for their courage and for putting the issue to rest and making the AMCON (Amendment No. 2) Act, 2019, a thing of the past.”

Kuru explained that it was not unusual to periodically amend the law that governs activities of organisations such as AMCON, to deal with obligors who constantly try to avoid, circumvent and totally deny commitments and obligations. However, the amendment, according to him, can only be effective to the extent that solicitors of AMCON understand the Act and thereafter utilise the far-reaching powers that have been vested in the corporation.

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