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AMCON debtors show deliberate reluctance towards repayment, say Justices Auta, Bulkachuwa

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Leading legal luminaries including the former Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Hon. Justice I. N. Auta OFR and the President of Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa CFR have joined the campaign by the management of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) in calling for a paradigm shift in debt recovery processes in Nigeria. Such shift according to them would act as act as panacea, if indeed the Corporation were to meet its mandate of resolving its huge outstanding obligation.

Current AMCON management under the leadership of its Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Ahmed Kuru upon assuming office and reviewing the challenges as well as bottlenecks inhibiting recoveries mounted a strong campaign that the current practice where habitual and recalcitrant debtors are treated with kid gloves, especially by agencies of government would not help AMCON resolve these loans before its sunset date.

According to Justice Auta, the approach to debt recovery and resolution must change at this point in the life of AMCON especially going into 2018 and beyond because the Corporation came as a child of necessity at the time it was created with all the good intentions in the world to recalibrate the beleaguered economy of the country at the time.

In his words, “Nigeria witnessed the 2007 global financial crisis, which was caused by insolvency, illiquidity, poor corporate governance and outright financial crimes. However, with the creation of AMCON by the federal government, no bank has been liquidated, depositors’ funds are safe and no bank has been subject to collection queues. The financial crisis led to the depression in value of the securities created against these defaulting loans thereby leaving the banks with an unfortunate inability to recover their losses. The effect of such monumental exposure was that banks were unable to sustain the equilibrium of lending required to maintain a vibrant economy. This in turn led to higher interest rates and an inability to perform the bank’s primary functions of financial intermediation like the pooling of savings and lending.”

Explaining further he said, “In addition to significant reduction in lending to customers, financial crisis created by non-performing loans can result in breakdown of interbank lending, which in turn leads to drastic drop in liquidity of banks and a consequent reticence or direct inability to advance loans to the broader public. Collectively, these factors create a vicious cycle resulting in a hike in interest rates; concomitant default and insolvency; volatility of currency values; a drop in investments and general stagnation of the economy among other crisis.”

Justice Auta having enumerated the facts argued that it is extremely important for all stakeholders, especially Judges to note the correlation between bank failure, which AMCON saved, and a large concentration of non-performing loans. He added that Judges have critical role to play in the insulation of the macro-economy from fragmentation since most disputes that relate to banking, which AMCON currently shoulders are presented before them. Describing the AMCON framework as “extremely complex” he said AMCON’s goal can only be accomplished if all stakeholders, especially the entire hierarchy of the bench appreciates the fundamental underpinnings of its regime.

Lending her voice to Justice Auta’s position, Justice Bulkachuwa in her own analogy argued that since the rise of the financial sector is tied to economic growth, Nigeria’s economy, the livelihood and wellbeing of the citizenry are inextricably related to finance. She said all over the world, whenever the economy goes into crisis, governments across the world intervene to stabilize the macro-economy, which AMCON did in the case of Nigeria.

But with what she described as “deliberate reluctance” of debtors to redeem their obligations to AMCON, Justice Bulkachuwa said, “Having realized deliberate reluctance of debtors to redeem their obligations to AMCON, it would seem that AMCON has limited options other than resorting to our courts to enforce its enormous powers towards debt recovery. To recover as much debt as possible within its defined lifespan, expediency is essential if AMCON is to achieve its value maximization and financial stability goals.”

Corroborating the position of the two distinguished Justices, Kuru submitted that AMCON is currently indebted to the CBN to the amount of N4.7trillion, which is more than half of the proposed 2018 national budget. Aside that, more than 70 per cent of AMCON’s Eligible Bank Asset (EBA), portfolio is also locked in one form of litigation or the other meaning that without the support of the judiciary, AMCON cannot see the light of day. 

On the back of that, he said there is also a rising number of appeals emanating from trial courts on AMCON cases, adding that at this stage in AMCON’s existence, expeditious determination of appeals brought before the courts remains key to AMCON’s ability to resolve all outstanding assets and prevent the undesired economic consequences of failure to recover the assets. The inability to resolve the debt he argued would have dire implications for the entire Nigerian economy.

AMCON a creation of the National Assembly in response to the global financial crises of 2008/2009, acquired over 12,000 Non-Performing Loans worth about N3.7 trillion from 22 banks. Out of this, AMCON injected N2.2 Trillion as Financial Accommodation to 10 commercial banks in order to prevent systemic failure. This singular action, helped stabilize the financial system. About N3.66 trillion of depositors’ funds were protected; and approximately 14,000 jobs were saved as a result of AMCON’s intervention in the banking sector. The idea is to recover the debts either through structured repayment or dispose of transferred assets towards settlement of the Bonds.

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Senate backs AMCON’s plan to publish debtors’ list

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L-R: Senator Samuel Nnaemeka Anyanwu, Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions; Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim and Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr. Ahmed Kuru discussing during the Senate Committee retreat on the Amendment of the AMCON Act at the Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos on….Thursday
The Chairman Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Senator Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim, has said that Nigeria can be made great again, if the legislature as a matter of urgency empowers the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to go after recalcitrant obligors. He said that is the only way AMCON can meet its mandate of achieving the tough mandate for which it was set up in 2010.

He said since AMCON over the past seven years have done its best to resolve these debts but are   still encountering resistance from obligor, the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the able leadership of Senator Dr. Olubukola Saraki, would have not option that to urge AMCON to compile and publish the list of all these debtors on major daily newspapers in the country. The move, he argued would place before Nigerians those who are holding the nation’s economy to ransom since they account for 80 per cent of AMCON’s N4.8trillion obligation.

The Senator, who spoke today at the opening of a 2-day retreat at Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos where they convened to discuss the all-important AMCON Act Amendment Bill, hinted that the Upper Chamber, as part of its oversight function, has decided that AMCON at this critical time in its lifespan must be given all the support it requires to perform as expected by all Nigerians. He however urged the Management of AMCON to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to propose that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces issues an Executive Order on seizure of assets of persons who are indebted to AMCON.

In a keynote address he delivered at the commencement of the retreat, Sen. Ibrahim said the upper chamber is intent on having serious discussions as soon as possible with major stakeholders such as the CBN, the FMF, the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and relevant committees from the legislature among others, where issues hindering AMCON from performing optimally including the funding model of AMCON would be discussed to enable the recovery agency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria finish its assignment on a high.

According to him the Upper Chamber will at this stage bare its fangs by amending the AMCON Act because AMCON has been a key stabilizing and re-vitalizing tool in the Nigerian financial system and so will be supported by the legislature to enable the Corporation achieve its statutory objectives. He said the legislature therefore supports the proposed plan by AMCON to publish the list of especially the 350 obligors that accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the total huge debt of AMCON.

Earlier in his presentation, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, AMCON, Mr. Ahmed Kuru reminded the Senate Committee that the ramifications for failure by AMCON to recover its debt, principally owed to the CBN, cannot be quantified as it goes beyond economic cost. He disclosed that AMCON’s total debt obligation of N4.8trillion represents more than 55 per cent of the 2018 national budget. Given the current demands on the Federal Government therefore, Kuru said he is convinced that it is doubtful that the government can afford to expense AMCON’s debt in the short term.

It was for that reason, AMCON, after seven years of negotiating with the obligors with no commensurate recovery result, has decided to change its strategy, which now pays strict attention to enforcements as a way of compelling especially the recalcitrant obligors to come and pay up their debts. To achieve this however, Kuru said the Corporation will be heavily dependent on the legislature, most especially members of the committee to facilitate the amendment of the AMCON Act since most obligors of AMCON that are politically exposed and business heavyweights now employ different antics in law to tie the Corporation up in courts.

Further highlighting other challenges faced by the Corporation, the AMCON CEO, again said, “One of the major areas for amendment is the matter of vesting proprietary interest of all collateral assets acquired by AMCON from commercial banks. The proposed amendment will have retrospective effect. The vesting of proprietary interest of all collateral assets in the resolution vehicle was implemented in Malaysia and was instrumental to their success in recovering debt obligations.

“Our second challenge has to do with the disposal of assets due to the economic downturn. AMCON’s current assets under management (AUM), that is assets obtained from debt resolution, has a book value of N182 billion, which we are unable to sell. Our ability to successfully divest these assets, at competitive market price, is severely hampered by several factors including valuation methodology, unperfected title documents, state of the economy, purchasing power. The third challenge is the uncooperative attitudes of select obligors who are either unwilling and/or unable to settle their indebtedness. Such debtors prefer to resort to all manner of diversionary tactics as opposed to dealing with the problem of their indebtedness. It sees most of them are buying time, to where we do not know.”

Kuru also stated that from all indications, AMCON has in the past seven years exhausted the low hanging fruits and have had to roll up sleeves for a drawn out battle because it has become harder to get obligors to settle their debts. Throwing more light on this, the AMCON boss said, “To clarify, obligors indebted to AMCON for the sum of N1.3 trillion have sued us in various courts in Nigeria raising technicalities to avoid meeting their obligations. This has hampered our recovery efforts and our objective of obtaining the best achievable financial returns on assets acquired from the banks.”

For that reason, he informed that AMCON had presented the issue with 350 accounts that represent about 80 per cent of AMCON’s current exposure of N3 trillion as at May 31, 2018. AMCON, he said is still grappling with the issues that are multi-faceted, which consequently led the Corporation to reposition its debt recovery approach to focus on enforcement against obligors who are not willing to settle amicably.

In conclusion, Kuru said, “I will like to emphasize, once again, that the ramifications for failure by AMCON to recover its debt, principally owed to the CBN, cannot be quantified as it goes beyond economic cost. AMCON’s total debt obligation of N4.8trillion represents more than 55 per cent of the 2018 national budget. Given the current demands on the Federal Government, it is doubtful that it can afford to expense AMCON’s debt in the short term.”

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C&I Leasing Plc expands, acquires ‘Petrotech JV’

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C &I Leasing Plc, a leasing and business service conglomerate has just concluded the buyout of 27.5% minority stake in C&I Petrotech Marine Ltd- a Joint Venture company with six vessels presently deployed to a long-term contract with Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC).

The parties engaged Wizer Advisory as an independent advisor for the valuation of the shares. As a result of this transaction, C&I Petrotech Marine Limited is now a fully owned subsidiary of C&I Leasing Plc.

Recall, C&I Leasing Plc recently recorded a successful N7 Billion Bond issue- the first series in a N20 Billion debt issuance programme. The company had stated that the funds raised would largely be invested in business expansion and restructuring of the company’s debts over a period of five years among other initiatives which will guarantee increased profit margins and returns for shareholders. Today’s buyout transaction of C&I Petrotech Marine Limited minority shareholders is evidence of C&I Leasing’s commitment to investing in its business growth and expansion.

According to the Managing Director of the Company, Mr. Andrew Otike-Odibi, “Our journey into the Maritime sector as a service provider for the Oil and Gas sector actually started through the C&I Petrotech Marine Joint Venture in 2010 and has over the years culminated in the ownership of over twenty vessels consisting of crew boats, pilot boats, tug boats, patrol boats and platform support vessels for providing services such as line and hose handling, berthing and escort services, mooring support, fire-fighting, pollution control, security and floating and self-elevating platforms.”

“This clearly reiterates our commitment to growing our Marine service business and gaining leadership in the field”.

It is hoped that this buyout will further the company’s drive to restructure and reposition its marine business for enhanced profitability.

C & I Leasing Plc has been in operation for over two decades and has since evolved from being a simple consumer finance leasing company licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1991 to  becoming a  diversified,  leasing  and  business  service  conglomerate  providing  support services to various indigenous and multinational organizations in West Africa along three lines: Fleet Management, Personnel Outsourcing and Marine Services. The C&I Leasing group of companies has its operational offices in Lagos, Benin, Port-Harcourt, Calabar, Enugu and Abuja. The company has also been listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange since 1997 and is invested in the following subsidiaries – Leasafric Ghana Limited, Epic International FZE Dubai and now C&I Petrotech Marine Limited.

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UBA emerges best institution in Digital Banking across Africa

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Pan-African financial services group, United Bank for Africa Plc, has once again made an addition to its growing list of enviable laurels as it was named Africa’s best bank  in the Digital category at the prestigious Euromoney awards in London.

This further lends credence to UBA’s dominance in the digital banking space. The Euromoney awards ceremony which was held on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 covers more than 20 global product categories, best-in-class awards and the best Banks in over 100 countries around the world, recognising institutions that have demonstrated leadership, innovation, and momentum in the markets in which they operate.

In selecting its recipients, Euro money’s principle is hinged both on quantitative and qualitative data to honor institutions that have brought the highest levels of service, innovation and expertise to their customers.

At the awards ceremony, UBA beat other nominees taking away the prize for best institution in Digital banking across Africa, an affirmation of its recent investment in cutting edge technology, one of which gave birth to Leo, the chat banker that has disrupted banking across Africa.

In a bid to be the undisputed leading financial services industry  in Africa in the area of innovation and technology, UBA has steadily included new and emerging trends to its range of solutions in-branches, across subsidiaries and on digital platforms. The emergence of LEO, has been a continuous directive to push the banking sector beyond financial services and to show that the bank truly comprehends the shift in operations and the movement of the global world with technology today.

The Euromoney award, which is a recognition of innovative products and services introduced by the bank in recent times and targeted towards meeting customer needs, comes on the heels of recent awards to UBA, including Finnacle Client Innovation Awards and Best Bank Awards won by five of its subsidiaries across Africa by The Bankers Magazine. UBA was also declared the best Bank in Africa in 2017.

Receiving the award at a well attended event in London, the Group Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, United Bank for Africa, Kennedy Uzoka, appreciated the organizer’s for the recognition, noting that UBA’s dedication to hard work and particular emphasis to offering quality services to customers are being acknowledged.

According to Uzoka, the award affirms the Bank’s strong management and un-matched commitment to service excellence.

He said: “This only goes to show that our resolve in continuing to deploy innovative solutions that place customers first, using cutting edge technology for their collective satisfaction and excellent banking experience is important to us. This recognition will further spur us to do more in meeting the needs of our customers with unrivalled services.”

Uzoka stated “for us at UBA, the award is quite an accomplishment, considering Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook and President Emmanuel Macron of France’s recent endorsement both of which centred around highlighting the distinguishing value of UBA’s leading digital opportunities”.

“Also, our recent launch of Leo in 15 African countries is evidence that UBA has on its agenda, the objective of digital creativity especially in service for our trusted customer base across the African continent.  This award reminds us as an institution not to relent in our pursuit of excellence and to continue to lead the new digital age in Africa, within the financial services industry’.

Clive Horwood, Euromoney Magazine’s Editor explained that:  “Despite fierce competition, one bank stood out in the last year for the inventiveness of its efforts in digital banking: United Bank for Africa. One of its signature launches in Nigeria was Leo, an e-chat service using artificial intelligence to help customers execute transactions on Facebook”.

“Recently, Mark Zuckerberg gave a nod to the service, during a talk at a recent developers’ conference – a sign of its recognition at the highest levels of digital technology. The bank also recently added retina and fingerprint recognition and technology to reduce business travel greenhouse emissions. If it fulfils its ambitious plans to partner with fintech companies, UBA could continue to lead African banks in the area of digitilisation. “Horwood noted.

UBA is one of Africa’s leading banks with operations in 20 African countries and in London and New York, with   presence in Paris.

Adjudged to be at the forefront of innovation and convenient banking, UBA is one of the first financial services institutions on the continent to deploy Finacle 10x, a new information technology platform that boosts its services and electronic banking channels.

Today, UBA provides banking services to more than 15 million customers globally, through diverse channels and over a thousand touch points.

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