AMCON, Acquisitions and the Question of Transparency

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The lingering recent misgivings over the contentious sales of public assets like Keystone Bank and others under AMCON receivership have no doubt put AMCON itself in a spot that attracts close public scrutiny. Could it be rightly said that AMCON has shot itself in the foot due to controversies around its recent actions in sales of its assets? Well, the answers fly in the wind. But as far as acquisitions and sales of toxic public assets go in Nigeria, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) as a regulatory government institution has come a long way since it was set up during the banking crisis that occurred in 2009 and spilled over into 2010.
Going down memory lane, as they say, it would be recalled that in late November 2009, former CBN Governor Lamido Sanusi had sacked the chief executive officers and directors of eight of the then 25 banks in Nigeria for allegedly endangering the financial wellbeing of their organizations. Sanusi had also disclosed that at the time that the rescued banks had an aggregate toxic assets portfolio in excess of N2 Trillion. The act of the CBN Governor was perceived by many as an interventionist strategy to curtail the crisis that engulfed the banking sector then.
The AMCON Act could therefore be seen as an institution of circumstance to ensure the affected banks remained a going concern. The AMCON Bill was signed into law on the 9th day of July, 2010 as an Act to establish the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria for the purpose of efficiently resolving the non-performing loan assets of Banks in Nigeria and for related matters.
Now, the relevant question in the public mind is: are the cardinal principles of transparency and due process applied in AMCON’s recent sales of its assets such as Keystone Bank? Are AMCON’s actions and activities in tandem with the anti-corruption stance of federal government in the sales of public assets under its management? When these posers are critically considered against the recent acquisition of Keystone Bank in particular, one would find that principles of transparency and due process come short, while some nepotistic under-the-table deals underpin assets sales transactions.
So, with the alleged corruption surrounding the acquisitions of public assets like Keystone Bank that have been under the receivership of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), why have relevant government agencies like the EFCC not taken up the challenge of diligent investigations to clear the air? Why have answers not been provided yet to burning questions in the mind of the public?
Specifically, genuine concerns and questions still persist on the Keystone Bank acquisition process. Why has nobody denied the assertion going round that AMCON made N20Billion deposit with GTBank which became a suspicious tool of illegal funding of an asset acquisition? Did Nigeria’s biggest retail Bank also place the alleged N20Billion deposit with Heritage Bank? Subsequently, did Heritage Bank loan exactly N20Billion to the Funtua Group? Was it Heritage Bank that paid N20Billion to AMCON for the acquisition of Keystone Bank? And ultimately, did Keystone Bank borrow N20Billion from the Interbank Market which was repaid to Heritage Bank who then repaid Nigeria biggest retail Bank who then repaid AMCON?
When the foregoing questions are rationally analyzed, it could be deduced that AMCON in a way made their own funds available for use as collateral security by the well-connected investors who purchased Keystone Bank. If this is not true, then what is the true situation?
So, with the way the government is aggressively fighting corruption and desirous of attracting foreign investors to invest in our economy, should AMCON not be more upright and transparent in their sales of public assets under its management? It is time AMCON and other government institutions in regulatory capacity over the national economy keyed into the anti-corruption agenda of the federal government and ensure that the rule of law, due process, accountability and integrity guide sales of public assets, and not nepotism, cronyism and compromise.

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.