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N5trn debt: Senate empowers AMCON to seize debtors’ assets

The Senate, yesterday, passed the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) Amendment bill, empowering the agency to seize debtors’ assets on failing to redeem their debts. The passage of the bill followed consideration of a report of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions.

The passed amendment bill, among other things, empowered AMCON to take possession, manage or sell all properties traced to debtors, whether or not such assets or properties were used as security/collateral for obtaining the loan in question.

The bill also empowers the corporation to access the Special Tribunal established by the BOFIA 2020, for dealing with financial related matters. Presenting the report, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Uba Sani (APC, Kaduna Central), noted that while working on the bill, the committee engaged AMCON, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).

He said that the stakeholders, in their submissions, pushed for AMCON to be empowered to take possession, manage, foreclose or sell, transfer, assign or otherwise of property used as security for eligible bank assets, among others. However, during the clause-by-clause scrutiny of the bill, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, (APC, Delta Central), sought to know the rationale behind the recommendation of the committee in clause two, empowering AMCON to take possession of assets outside of those used as collateral in obtaining a loan request. “The essence of collateral is that in the event of default, you lose that asset.

What I am reading here is that in addition to seizing that asset, they (AMCON) want to go beyond that to every other asset or property that is traceable to the debtor. I think I need some clarifications on that,” he said. Also, Senator Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North East) argued that the new clause was wrong, saying, “you cannot go outside the asset presented for the facility.” Contributing, Senator Adamu Aliero supported the new provision, saying: “Mr. Chairman, if you can recall, during debate on this bill, Senators made it abundantly clear that these debtors were taking government money, and they are using it freely and going free, and we need stringent measures to be enforced to recover the money.”

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, at this point called for voting on the contentious clause, as more Senators faulted the additional powers granted AMCON. Although the voice of those who rejected the new insertion overwhelmed those in support, Lawan still ruled in favour of the clause. After the passage of the bill, Senators Bassey Akpan and Chukwuka Utazi, while relying on a Point of Order put forward by the former, contested the ruling of the President of the Senate by requesting for a division. Interjecting, Lawan said: “When we come to legislate, we all come here with a very clear mind, that we are do ing this for our country, we don’t have any interest but the national interest. He insisted that the ruling he made on the matter should stand, saying, “let the people go to court to test it, but our hope and desire is for AMCON to be able to recover huge sums of money – trillions that people have taken and now is on the head of Nigerians. And it is criminal, really.

People will consciously take money. I will advise that we stick to our decision.” Chukwuka Utazi, on his part, kicked against the clause empowering AMCON to take possession of assets traced to debtors, ex-doplaining that “most of the banks that have those bad debts colluded with the customers in doing that in the first place.”

Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East), while citing the Senate rules, observed that “it will be out of order to reconsider any specific question, upon which the Senate has come to a conclusion during the current session, except upon a substantive motion or decision.” The President of the Senate, thereafter, ruled Senator Akpan’s call for a division out of order, hinging his ruling on the provision of the Senate Rule cited by Sekibo.

 

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