The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Finance, are awaiting a convincing resolution strategy from Arik owners to offset over N200 billion debt with the corporation.
The managing director/CEO, AMCON, Mr Ahmed Lawan Kuru, in a media parley with journalists in Ikeja, Lagos, yesterday, noted that, if not for the intervention of Arik by its corporation, the airline would have closed shops for businesses a long time ago.
While expressing misgivings over the information the owners of the Arik were pushing into the public which he said, was half truth, he noted that, “those pushing that negative campaign forgot that Arik at the time had a about 50 per cent passenger load before AMCON took over in 2017 under a receivership arrangement. However, because the government of the day was interested in saving the airline because of its strategic role in Nigeria’s aviation sector, felt strongly that the airline must be saved from imminent collapse and national embarrassment.”
At that time the government mandated AMCON to intervene in Arik, he disclosed that the airline was not paying staff salary, insurance, and could not afford to buy aviation fuel to keep the planes flying, even as 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,” he pointed out.
Stressing that his corporation is willing to assist Atiku, he said: “the challenge of Sir Arumemi Johnson’s Arik Air Limited (in Receivership) under the auspices of 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.
“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 a 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 understanding. We are convinced that there is always a way out.”
Since the coming of a new government led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he said, 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.
He explained that regardless of the campaign of calumny against AMCON and its recovery activities, the corporation, under his watch, remains a resolution agency that has supported businesses and would continue to support businesses because it is in the overall interest of the Nigerian economy. He said: “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.”
Kuru explained that, “the fact is that AMCON’s journey started because the business they bought their debts for had been in intensive care and needed to be revived. They also took loans that have accumulated interest that has to be recovered to stabilise the businesses.
“Some of the obligors have remained recalcitrant and do not want to pay the debt they owe even when some of them seem 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 3000 cases in different courts.”