AMCON and Bad Debts
Financial institutions in Nigeria are being owed a staggering N5 trillion, about 67 per cent of which is being owed by 20 individuals and entities. This, by all standards, is galling.Disturbed by this, the federal government recently set upa special task force with members drawn from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and the Permanent Secretaries of the Justice Ministry, with a mandate to recover the outstanding amounts.
AMCON, despite the noble idea behind its formation, appeared toothless and has not recorded much success in line with its mandate. Nearly 10 years after, going after the debtors has proved more challenging than those who set up the agency may have anticipated. Lenders and financial regulators have over time been frustrated over how to effectively go after high profile debtors, recover funds, and checkmate their collaborators, many of who are top banking industry executives.Nigeria’s banking system and the economy have suffered serial rape perpetuated by greedy businessmen working in cahoots with bank insiders over the years as they take loans they never intend to pay back. Sorting out bad debts and prosecuting those behind them has remained a challenge even when banks and banker’s jobs are saved by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as was the case of the defunct Afribank, Bank PHB and Spring Bank, when the regulator created bridge banks, Mainstreet, Keystone and Enterprise, for seamless take over of the operations of the failed banks. It is in view of this that we commend President Muhammadu Buhari for recently assenting to the amendment of the AMCON Act 2010, by increasing the powers of the Commission in enforcement of recovery of debts from persons owing legacy banks or seizure of property subject of loan obligation. The amendment also empowers AMCON to, among others, place any bank account or any other account comparable to a bank account of a debtor of an eligible financial institution under surveillance, obtain 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 and also 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 is therefore laudable that the reinvigorated AMCON has hit the ground running and the Federal High Court in Lagos, a few days back, ordered AMCON and United Bank for Africa (UBA) to take over an Ikoyi, Lagos, property of former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, over an alleged debt of N537,334,360.77, pursuant to an ex parte application, marked, FHC/L/CS/1373/2019, taken before the judge by AMCON and UBA. We urge AMCON to, in line with the new powers conferred on it, do more to recover this staggering debt. Despite the laudability of the latest move, government must also work towards extending the life of AMCON which is billed to end by 2020.
Flood: Where Federal Government Dropped the Ball
About 31 states of the federation are currently affected by flood. In the list are: Abia, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Kebbi, Adamawa, Anambra, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Niger, Ekiti, Enugu, Delta, Benue, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Taraba, Yobe, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In the front row of the devastation are Bayelsa, which is almost totally inundated, given its low lying topography, so also Rivers, Nasarawa, Kogi and Benue.
He acknowledged that the disaster had impacted farmlands across the 31 affected states, making the 2012 flood incident pale in weight and significance and the present one worst in annals, at least as far as the memories of the victims can take them.
On her part, Sani-Gwarzo’s supervising minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq says approximately 2,776 persons have been injured and 612 persons dead across the country due to the devastating effects of the floods. Putting more numbers to havoc, Farouq said that 181,600 houses have been partially damaged and 123,807, damaged totally. In addition, 176,852 hectares of farmlands she disclosed have been partially damaged while 392,399 hectares are damaged totally.
With the damage, all the crops in the farmlands in the flooded areas of the affected states have all perished, heightening the fear of increased food shortages in the country. In Nasarawa State for instance, the over $15 million worth of Olam Rice Farm, covering 4,500 hectares of land was destroyed alongside some physical farm infrastructure such as dykes, canals and drainage worth $8 million.
In all of these, Sani-Garzo revealed that the interventionist ministry has only been able to reach out to about 300,000 of the victims with food and non-food items. This figure, Farouq clarified, spread across 31 states of the federation.
This is paltry by every measure for a disaster which well-meaning Nigerians have called that it should be designated a national emergency by the federal government or at least that the government sets up a presidential relief committee for the victims’ support.
While no such far-reaching drastic measures was considered, it became rather agonizing seeing that the responses of the national government to the widespread disaster, lacked life and spirit. While federal government’s palliatives are manifestly sparring and slow in coming, the three months period within which President Buhari wants the Minister of Water Resources and his Transportation counterpart alongside state governments to afford him a Comprehensive Plan of Action for Preventing Flood Disaster in Nigeria could be anything but urgent in the face of the deaths and devastation.
Some states at the moment have as many as 12 temporary displaced peoples camps, spread in school premises and worship centres, all crawling with people whose bedrooms can now only be accessed with canoe.
Even a visit to any of the worst-hit states by President Muhammadu Buhari could have sent a signal of empathy to the affected being the leader of the nation. But we saw none of it. Not even to Nasarawa and Kogi-states which are contiguous to the federal seat of power-much less the far-flung Bayelsa, Delta, Anambra, Imo, Kano, Adamawa, Rivers and Benue. This is even as nearby Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, was cut off from the rest of the country by the flood for two long weeks, triggering fuel scarcity and cost additions to the runaway food price inflation in the FCT.
Buhari’s disinterest to empathize with the citizens with a visit ran counter to calls by different groups and tendencies in the country on him to go and fraternize with the broken and bereaved citizens. The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) which wanted him to come to any of the states of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states, to see for himself the level of damage and destruction caused by the flood noted that such aligned with the practice of other national leaders when natural disasters strike their countries and citizens.
DAILY ASSET strongly feels that the federal government underestimated the carnage caused by the flood or perhaps initially felt unconcerned about it, given that Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) gave early warning about the flood, by pointing to increased rainfall this year and release of water by Cameroonian authorities in its Lagdo Dam which usually inundates River Benue and its tributaries and communities along its flood plains. It needs to be pointed out, however, that no circumstance or reason can excuse a government for leaving its citizens in the lurch or to stew in their own juice.
Apart from the early warning, what was the next proactive measure the federal government took in trying to protect the lives and properties of the citizens in flood endangered communities? The answer is none!
National Defence College Graduates 2,549 Participants in 30 Years – Commandant
The Commandant, National Defence College (NDC), Rear Adm. Murtala Bashir, said the college has graduated no fewer than 2,549 participants from within and outside Nigeria in its 30 years of existence.
Bashir stated this while briefing newsmen on the college 30th Anniversary and Graduation of Course 30 Participants of NDC on Monday in Abuja.
The commandant was represented by the Deputy Commandant and Director of Studies, NDC, Maj.
He said that 216 of the participants were drawn from strategic Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); 92 from Nigerian Police and 254 international participants from allied nations.
According to him, among the participants were people who had reached the pinnacle of their career in the various services and MDAs.
The commandant said the college deemed it necessary to mark its 30th anniversary, having been able to record landmark success stories, especially in the remit of its mandate.
According to him, the college has the mandate to train selected senior military officers, their counterparts from strategic MDAs and the police to be able to operate at the strategic level within and outside the country.
“We insist our participants understand how to use the entire gamut of elements of national power to be able to achieve strategic objectives.
“That, in a nutshell, is the mandate of the college and that is what we strive to achieve since 1992 that the college was established.
Bashir said that NDC was a key arm of National Defence Diplomacy because of its level of interaction between the college and members of the armed forces from foreign countries.
He said the college could pride itself in advancing the nation’s defence diplomacy and ultimately the national foreign policy of Nigeria.
According to him, the college, too, is a centre of excellence in the conduct of peace support operations as a strategic level.
He added that NDC was a key partner in AU and ECOWAS in advancing peace support operations, particularly as regards the theoretical components that advance the missions at the strategic level.
The commandant also said that NDC could pride itself in corporate social responsibility in its host communities such as Ushafa in terms of provision of infrastructures, medical outreach, schools and even scholarship.
He said that series of programmes had been lined up for the 30th anniversary such as sports, humanitarian activities and award night as well as graduation lecture and graduation course 30 participants.
According to him, so many of the participants have been service chiefs in their armed forces.
“This year will be honouring two of them who are current service chiefs from Burkina Faso and Uganda.
“So, when you graduate participants who rise to the position of service chiefs in their respective countries, of course you have a link to those countries because we will monitor their progresses and they remain part of us. (NAN)
In Support Of The Ban On Open Grazing
After years of indecision, procrastination and dilly dallying, the Federal Government last week took a firm decision to ban open grazing of cattle across the country. The implementation of the ban will however take-off on a pilot basis in five states of the Federation-Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa and Zamfara.
The decision was taken by the National Economic Council (NEC) after its meeting in Abuja on Wednesday.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who made the decision public on behalf NEC also said the Council equally banned the free movement of cattle and other animals across the Nigerian border from other West African countries, regardless of the relevant protocol of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which guarantees free movement of people and goods within the sub-region.
We welcome the decision of NEC even though it is coming late in the day when the country has witnessed unnecessary spilling of blood from incessant clashes between Herdsmen and farmers nationwide.
The clashes which have become a national security concern, it is hoped will abate since the Herdsmen will by the new decision adopt to ranching which is the global best practice in animal husbandry.
We are even the more happier that the decision was not based on political or religious sentiments but a product of the report of the technical committee earlier set up by Council under the chairmanship of Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi.
Umahi’s Committee traversed the states where the farmers-Herders clashes have been most prevalent, i.e Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau and Zamfara states. During the fact-finding visits, the Committee met with all stakeholders including farmers, security agencies, state governors, leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Miyetti Allah Kautal Horel, among others.
In all the meetings, ranching was canvassed as the most enduring solution to the bloodletting occasioned by the farmers-Herders clashes. The Committee was therefore, left with no better option than recommend the ban on open grazing of cows.
The NEC decision has at long last vindicated the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and his Taraba state counterpart, Darius Dickson Ishaku, both of who enacted the anti-open grazing law as a panacea to the frequent violent clashes between farmers and the Herdsmen. It can be said therefore, that the two governors understood the issues and the best solution and indeed acted appropriately. It is to their credit that NEC arrived at the same solution the two governors proffered several months earlier.
While we commend NEC for the courage to take this decision, the security agencies especially the police and the Department of State Services(DSS) must immediately commence the enforcement of this ban otherwise the Federal Government decision would pass as one of the rhetorical statements commonly associated with politicians when confronted with difficult situations.
As has been severally argued by experts, Nigeria with a little over 26million cattle should have no problem operating ranches since countries like India, Brazil, Argentina and the US with upward 100million cattle have long practiced ranching.
What more, animal scientists have since established that the nomadic cows produced less milk and poor quality meat compared to those kept in ranches.
The Federal Government should live up to its words to provide subsidies for animal husbandry as recommended by the Umahi Committee.
In our view, the subsidies should come by way of
If the NEC decision is properly implemented, Nigeria would have just began the journey towards a profitable and healthier cattle rearing business through the ranching model.
Most importantly, the NEC decision banning the free movement of
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