The Civil Liberties Organisation,CLO continues to campaign for good governance, rule of law and true democracy. This it demonstrated again when the CLO addressed media on a matter concerning AMCON and a recent court order in which the Human Rights Organization disclosed during the press conference some fundamental issues.
By Ovie Edomi
In the words of Edmund Burke,”all it takes for evil men to take over the society and poison it, is for good men to stand aloof and do nothing.”
Indeed, we cannot keep watching things go wrong and we keep mute. We must do something right if we want posterity to judge us fairly.
No doubt, AMCON was established by law in 2010 to buy bad debts from banks using Treasury Bill’s money in order to stabilize the country’s financial institutions. The entire concept was to make banks liquid by buying toxic loans from banks and liaising with the Obligor/Debtor to provide the Obligor/Debtor with a conducive environment to repay the debt. But the way AMCON officials have been operating, suggest that they are more interested in taking over obligor’s properties instead of creating a conducive environment for such debts to be paid. If l may ask- Was AMCON established to generate profit or to stabilize the financial sector?. If AMCON was not established to make profit, it therefore implies that, if AMCON has not generated profit for the Government since inception, it has no justification to calculate an Obligor’s liability using an index amount above the amount paid by AMCON for the debt? But if AMCON has ever generated profit for the government in the past 12 years, under what revenue head has AMCON been paying such profit to the Government Treasury? The record should be made public just as the Nigeria Customs Service, Federal revenue Service, JAMB, NPA, NIMASA etc make their revenue generated to government coffer public from time to time.
AMCON no doubt, has the capacity to achieve financial stability of both the financial and productive sectors because it sources its funds from the Treasury Bill via CBN at 6% rate of interest. This certainly is sufficient to stabilize the Financial Sector and at the same time provide Obligors/Debtors a soft landing to operate and pay back their loans. This way, Obligors will be able to retain their staff strength instead of allowing them to throw their workers back to the already saturated labour market. A development that is adding to the crime rate in Nigeria.
Nigerians have found out over the years and which was confirmed by the Chief Executive of AMCON, Ahmed Kuru, when he told the entire world at a two-day annual seminar organized by the National Judicial Council and Legal Academy for Justices of the Courts of Appeal, that the corporation is owing CBN more than N4 trillion and that this debt could rise to N7 trillion by the year 2024 at the current rate of inflation. Besides, the AMCON boss noted that the corporation has many legal issues with different Courts and called on ‘Sister agencies’ to help join forces with the corporation to ensure that debtors pay up the debt owed the corporation.
I am amazed that in a country where suspects spend years in prison awaiting trial, AMCON would in the same country urge judges to exercise case management powers in order to ensure speedy hearing of AMCON cases. Is the law not meant for everyone equally? Why must AMCON cases be given accelerated hearings whereas some people’s case have been in court awaiting trial for nine years and so on?.
I must admit that, AMCON is going about its activity as if it is a profit making corporation or kill the productive sector of the economy especially the private investors. AMCON was created to buy off bank debts with a view to stabilizing the nation’s financial sector and possibly the productive sector that depends on the financial sector in order to grow the economy. It beats my imagination that AMCON is talking of its debt growing from N4 trillion to N7 trillion in four years. One would expect that AMCON could charge a 3% maximum mark up on the 6% Interest; thereby making the interest rate to be single digit in order to encourage growth and easy loan repayment. In fact, it will be killing for AMCON to charge interest rate that is above 10 percent having obtained its loan from the CBN/ Ministry of Finance at 6 percent interest rate. At the worst scenario, banks write off bad debts and grant interest free loans. Across Nigeria, AMCON has taken over countless corporate and individual properties and in most case sending the workforce of most corporate organization back to the labour market when unemployment rate in the first instance is growing rapidly. For instance, former Super Eagles captain, Kanu Nwankwo, had his hotel situated in Lagos taken over even when the matter was in court. Sadly all Kanu worked for went down the drain in one full swoop.
But more disturbing is the fact that AMCON’s Chief Executive complained of several legal cases pending in the Courts of Appeal. What he failed to tell the populace is that this bizarre development is equally as a result of the disturbing attitude of AMCON’s lawyers, its Receivers and in some cases misrepresentation of figures by some banks as at when they were packaging the loans for sale to AMCON.
For instance, the media has been awash with how Peace Global Satellite Communications Network allegedly borrowed N178m from WEMA bank and paid WEMA bank N162m remaining N16m on principal before thunderstorm destroyed Peace Global Satellite network in 2008 and both parties were in court in 2009 over nonpayment of insurance claim and attempt by WEMA bank to sell ( Peace Hotel in Lagos) the collateral used to secure the loan, until AMCON was created in 2010 and WEMA bank went ahead to sell the debt to AMCON in 2012 for N123m claiming that Peace Global Satellite Telecommunication was owing the bank N240m on principal in spite of Peace Global’s denial of WEMA Bank’s claim, AMCON went ahead to use N421M as index amount to calculate Peace Global’s liability and at 15% interest Rate.
Montesque propounded the theory of Separation of Powers which is the antithesis of concentrating all powers in one person or body of persons because Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The present management of AMCON has the power to ‘kill’ any company which has any problem with any bank. This is not healthy for our country in a democratic dispensation. The worst form of injustice is evil dressed with the gab of law. What is more, AMCON embarked on organizing seminars for members of the judiciary against Investors who happen to have one challenge or the other with the banks and AMCON happens to acquire the debt and in most cases they are in court with the Obligors. Is it right morally for AMCON to be sponsoring or organizing seminars for the same Justices that will hear their cases?
The impression one gets away with is that AMCON is creating the impression in the mind of the judicial officials that whosoever owes AMCON is owing the Federal Government and as such the judges should assist AMCON to recover the debt. This is wrong because the judges are to declare the law as it is without fear or favour. The law is ‘BUYER BEWARE’ so AMCON should conduct due diligence before buying any debt instead of buying a bad debt hoping to cure the legal defect in the transaction by appealing to the sentiments of the judges that Federal Government’s money is involved. Whosoever put the Federal Government money into a legally defective transaction should be blamed and possibly sanctioned instead of transferring such malfeasance to investors. Besides, it is my considered opinion that AMCON should stop referring to judicial officials as “sister agencies” because the judiciary is supposed to be independent in a democracy so as to serve as the last bastion of hope against the ‘new leviathan’ in town called AMCON. It is not enough that Caesar’s wife is above board, she must be seen to be above board.
On the 24th July, 2020, the Managing Director of Peace Hotel, Lagos explained that without being served any court process, a bailiff of Federal High Court Sheriff was at his property to present a Court Order dated 9th March, 2020 issued by Federal High Court, Abuja which he said expired if no motion on notice is served within 14 days of the ex-parte order for possession.He said this was not appropriately obtained and executed hence, the March 9th ex-parte order was invalid.Besides, he stated that
Writ of Summons was filed on the 20th March, 2020 and served on them on 28/08/2020 in the supporting Affidavit, it was claimed that the matter was not pending before any court whereas it was pending before the Supreme Court.
Despite all these fundamental flaws, the Managing Director of Peace Hotel a Barrister together with his wife and family were dehumanized and humiliated, traumatized by AMCON’s Receiver who locked up the gates to his hotel.
It is embarrassing and absolutely dehumanizing to take possession of the Obligor’s properties through a Court order obtained from a Federal High Court Abuja, without disclosing to the Federal High Court Abuja the fact that the same matter is before the Supreme Court.
However, despite the discharge of the ex-parte order by Hon. Justice A. I Chikere of the Federal High Court 3, Abuja, which was earlier secured by AMCON, the corporation continued to use its security guards in uniform to scare away Peace Hotels’ customers in Lagos as well as another set of security guards in uniform to traumatize the Managing Director of Peace Hotels in his residence also located in Lagos, after AMCON had received the Judgment Order vacating the ex-parte possession order showing that the matter is on appeal to the Supreme Court.
Unless AMCON is trying to tell Nigerians that it is above the law, otherwise no one needs to tell AMCON Chief Executive Officer to withdraw their security guards as well as withdraw the suit at Federal High Court Abuja and let parties pursue their remedies at Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court judgment is against Peace Global, AMCON can then go ahead to initiate proceedings at the Federal High Court, as appropriate.
Curiously too, in a judgement delivered at the Court of Appeal in a case between AMCON and Adedayo Shittu, the court ruled on 15th December 2020 that the obnoxious provision of section 34(6) of the 2019 AMCON Act clearly runs against and is inconsistent with the provision of section 6(6) of the Nigeria constitution is to the extent of it being inconsistent with the provision of the constitution, null and void. The implication is that the power derived from AMCON Act which allows the corporation to sell off obligor’s property when matter is still in court has been removed from AMCON.
Consequently; l support the recent call by the Civil liberty Organization, CLO calling on President Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), to prevail on Mr. Ahmed Kuru (MD, AMCON) to obey court order and withdraw the 8 AMCON security guards that had been laying siege at the business centre of Barrister Oreye and his residence despite the vacation order in obedience to the judgement order on vacating / discharging dated 24th day of November,2020 before his lordship.
AMCON being a machinery of Government meant to protect the financial and productive sectors of the economy should be seen acting above board and not oppress innocent citizens which is not part of the agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari for AMCON and Nigerians
* Edomi, is the Publisher/Editor-In-Chief of South South International
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