by Yusuf Alli
A new battle plan to recover N5trillion debts has been drawn up, it was learnt yesterday.
A task force, which will recover the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) debts has been raised by the Federal Government.
Some 105 businessmen and companies are owing the toxic debts.
Twenty individuals and firms account for N3.35trillion (67 %) of the N5trillion debts.
The debtors may lose their assets, unless they pay up.
It was learnt that the government may invoke against the debtors the Interim Forfeiture Clause in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Establishment Act 2004 and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (2000) Act.
The decision to raise a task force was taken at a closed-door meeting between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and some heads of anti-graft agencies.
At the meeting were EFCC Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu; ICPC Chairman Bolaji Owasanoye; NFIU Director/Chief Executive Modibbo Tukur; Federal Ministry of Transportation Permanent Secretary Sabiu Zakari and other senior government officials.
Although a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity (Office of the Vice President), Mr. Laolu Akande, was silent on the list of the debtors, The Nation unmasked them.
A breakdown of the list of debtors includes a senator, a former senator, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, a former secretary to the government of the Federation (SGF); two former governors, including one serving a jail term, a former Minister of Power and nine others.
There are also two former Managing Directors of distressed banks; a newspaper publisher, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a former powerful associate of an ex-President
A source at the meeting said: “The task force, including anti-graft agencies, will move in immediately to recover the debts.
They have been mandated to invoke the Interim Assets Forfeiture Clause where necessary.
“Of the 105 debtors, 20, comprising businessmen and companies, owe N3.350trillion. This is about 67 per cent.
“We can no longer allow these debtors to hold the nation to ransom. Some of them are hiding under the law to refuse to pay their debts. Recent profiling of these debtors shows that some of them have the wherewithal to offset their outstanding loans.”
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity (Office of the Vice President), Mr. Laolu Akande, said: “In a renewed and spirited effort to ensure the effective recovery of over N5 Trillion being outstanding debts owed the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), a new task force has been set up to get the job done without fail.
”Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, gave the indication during a meeting with board members and management of AMCON and selected heads of government agencies, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Monday evening.
”Those agencies include the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and also the Permanent Secretaries of the Justice and Transport Ministries.
”To this effect, a special task force/committee comprising the Heads of AMCON, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Ministry of Justice, will be working to develop and implement new strategies that will ensure that the determination of the FG to recover the money is speedily achieved.
”Osinbajo said all the relevant agencies have to re-strategise to achieve the desired results.
”The key is collaboration. We need a small team comprising these agencies to look at the next steps that we need to take, especially the criminal aspect, forfeiture, and all of that,” Osinbajo added.
The statement said the Vice President asked the task force should look at the top 20 AMCON defaulters closely and develop “a plan of action that brings results”.
Osinbajo had in May met with the AMCON management on how to resolve the debt crisis.
According to AMCON Chairman Muiz Banire almost 67 per cent of the outstanding N5tn debt is owed by just 20 individuals/entities.
Banire noted that the agency had been “trying its best in its attempt to recover this through the civil judicial process, but had encountered several challenges”.