Debtor Nigerians and corporate bodies may have little or no wiggle room to escape the long tentacles of justice under a new law signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The law is part of the measures taken by the Federal Government to help the the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to recover over N5 triilion debt owed by some prominent Nigerians.
Hitherto, the corporation has found it difficult to recover the humongous debts from the highly-connected debts who applied different types of tactics to frustrate efforts in that regards.
Under the new move, all the bank accounts of the individual debtors and their companies have been placed under surveillance. This followed the signing into law of the AMCON Amendment Act 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The AMCON Amendment (No. 2) Act fine-tuned the 2010 Act by increasing the powers of the corporation to enforce the recovery of debts from persons owing legacy banks or seizure of their property, the subject of loan obligation.
In particular, the Act empowers AMCON to place any bank account or any other account comparable to a bank account of a debtor of an eligible financial institution under surveillance.
AMCON will also have access to any computer system component, electronic or mechanical device of any debtor with a view to establishing the location of funds belonging to the debtor, and obtain information in respect of any private account together with all bank financial and commercial records of any debtor of any eligible financial institution.
Banking secrecy, and the protection of customer confidentiality is not a ground for the denial of the power of the Corporation under this section.
The law now makes it mandatory for AMCON to, despite the convention of confidentiality of banking, business and contracting relations, furnish the Federal Government, Ministries, Departments and Agencies with a list of recalcitrant debtors and then impose an obligation to seek clearance on the Federal Government, Ministries, Departments and Agencies when the Federal Government, any Ministry, Department or Agency proposes to contract with, or pay, debtors on the list furnished by the Corporation.
It further provides that: “(1) all money standing to the credits of the Corporation in any bank account is deemed to be in the custody and control of the Corporation. (2) where any proceeding is pending in any court of competent jurisdiction by or any Corporation, the grant of any interim, interlocutory or preservative order of attachment against the Corporation’s funds in any bank is prohibited.’’
“(3) the Corporation may require any eligible financial institution from which it has acquired an eligible bank asset or any director, manager or officer of such eligible financial institution to furnish information and produce documents, books, accounts and records in relation to any eligible bank asset acquired by the Corporation from such eligible financial institution or in relation to the borrower or other obligator connected with such eligible bank asset.”
The Act also states that upon dissolution of the Corporation: all unresolved eligible bank assets then held by the Corporation shall be transferred by the liquidator or joint liquidator to such government agency, or for valuable consideration, to a third party asset management company or other entity specified by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The law provides that all the existing staff shall be re-deployed to and absorbed into the Central Bank of Nigeria or the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The Act provides for, ‘’a part-time Chairman who shall be a Deputy Governor in the Central Bank of Nigeria to be nominated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.’’
The AMCON law is part of the two other former bills President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to which was passed by the 8th National Assembly.