Mr Ahmed Lawan Kuru OFR, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON); Mr Ayodele Aminu, Managing Director of New Telegraph newspaper, Mr Mojeed Jamiu, Executive Editor Upshot Reports, and Mr Jude Chiedozie Nwauzor, Head, Corporate Communications Department, AMCON at the Media Parley hosted by AMCON in Lagos on Monday
“The challenge of Sir Arumemi Johnson’s Arik Air Limited (in Receivership) under the auspices of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), may seem difficult, but the situation is not irredeemable. There is always a way out of every resolution situation however, there must be a situation of give and take, which is what we (AMCON) have been trying to achieve. We are ready to sit down with the owner or owners of Arik if they are ready to agree on what makes sense to us, to them, and the federal government.
“When we engage and arrive at that agreement, we will as AMCON go back to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as well as the Ministry of Finance (MOF), and share such resolution strategy with them. If you recall, in the past, we resolved issues that are more difficult and more complicated than the Arik issue in the banks, oil and gas, manufacturing sector, real estate and investment, automobile, telecommunications, just to mention a few. But for any resolution to take place, the two parties or the parties involved must have understanding. We are convinced that there is always a way out.”
These were the words of Mr Ahmed Lawan Kuru OFR, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of AMCON who was in Lagos on Monday to field questions from the media regarding developments in the aviation portfolio especially in the books of AMCON including Arik, Aero, and the proposed NG Eagle in Lagos earlier today. The Media Parley provided the usual opportunity for AMCON to brief the media on its recovery activities, but the interactive session heavily tilted toward aviation because of recent misleading claims by the owners of Arik led by Sir Arumemi Johnson, which the media sort clarifications.
Lately especially since the coming of a new government led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR, there has been heightened campaign by some recalcitrant AMCON debtors especially from its aviation portfolio that seeks to evoke the emotion of the public to perceive AMCON and its recovery activities from negative optical prism not minding the huge problem their debt to the federal government has caused the country.
But those pushing that negative campaign forgot that Arik at the time had a about 50 per cent passenger load before AMCON took over in 2017 under a receivership arrangement. However, because the government of the day was interested in saving the airline because of its strategic role in Nigeria’s aviation sector, felt strongly that the airline must be saved from imminent collapse and national embarrassment. At that time the government mandated AMCON to intervene in Arik, the airline was not paying staff salary, insurance, and could not afford to buy aviation fuel to keep the planes flying, and nobody including some key aviation international partners wanted to do business with Arik among other issues. Everything was wrong with Arik as the airline delayed flights for two to three days in a row while its aircraft were being arrested abroad, which is a big embarrassment to the country. If AMCON had not stepped in at the time the government asked AMCON to intervene, Arik would have gone under within two weeks.
Speaking at a media parley in Lagos on Monday the AMCON CEO in a no holds barred interaction with the media explained that regardless of the campaign of calumny against AMCON and its recovery activities, the Corporation under his watch remains a resolution agency that have supported businesses and would continue to support businesses because it is in the overall interest of the Nigerian economy. He said, “AMCON is a resolution agency of the government, and we look forward to any obligor or debtor that wants to come discuss with us with repayment plans. Our doors are always open to resolve debts because that is our primary function.
“Aside from our recovery mandate, AMCON does not have a secret agenda. Transparency for us is very key. But, we also know that misinformation is part of the game, which is what some of our obligors specialise in but we want the media to know that we are very ready to provide accurate information. We deal with people who have interests and have issues with the organization. It is nothing personal.
“The job we do at AMCON is not easy and I must commend my colleagues in AMCON – the staff because of their commitment against all odds. It is a difficult assignment, I must say. We deal with people that are in distress, and people that are desperately not ready to engage. When some of them (the obligors) heard the news of the proposed AMCON sunset, they stopped picking our calls. So, in their mind, they believe AMCON would soon close shop, which would mean that the government would write-off the debt. I want to state here today that the process of winding AMCON down will be a process, and nobody, no government would allow any debtor walk away. It is not possible,” Kuru affirmed.
In continuation, the AMCON boss who spoke passionately added, “AMCON is conscious of the fact that it is dealing with obligors who are doing legitimate business but have taken loans they could not services that resulted in bad debts that the banks could not recover, which AMCON eventually bought over, and was mandated by the government backed by the AMCON Act as amended to recover. As such AMCON tries as much as possible not put the issues involving obligors on the pages of newspapers. But the obligor at every opportunity tries to send half-truths to the public to make AMCON look bad.
“The fact is that AMCON’s journey started because the business they bought their debts had been in intensive care and needed to be revived. They also took loans that have accumulated interest that has to be recovered to stabilize the businesses. Some of the obligors have remained recalcitrant and do not want to pay the debt they owe even when some of them seem to be doing very well. Some have refused to discuss with AMCON on viable repayment plans believing that they can stall the pressure to pay by instituting court cases that delay recoveries. Consequently, AMCON has more than 3000 cases in different courts,”