By Onome Amawhe
The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) was founded in July 2010 by an Act of the National Assembly of Nigeria. The concept is similar to that of the Republic of Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency and Malaysia’s Pengurusan Danaharta.
AMCON was created to look into non-performing loans (NPLs) that crippled banks’ balance sheet positions. The corporation’s mandate was to recover the NPLs from the debtors and return the funds to government coffers to support the economy.
Eleven years into its operation, AMCON has recovered over N1 trillion through assets seizures, forfeiture, or cash payments. The recently amended AMCON Act, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, gave AMCON more powers to recover debts owed by obligors.
Until August 2015, the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) was characterized by management malfeasance leading to the removal of the then Managing Director, Mustafa Chike-Obi; a move prompted by alleged cumulative offenses committed by the former MD and his team, administration insiders, and former members of the company’s board.
“The president was inundated by complaints about the politicization of AMCON by its leadership and the lack of transparency in the disposition of assets,” a presidency source said.
In acting to halt the drift in the organization, and restore efficiency and independence to its operations, one of the earliest appointments President Muhammadu Buhari made, upon assumption of office, was that of Ahmed Kuru the current Chief Executive Officer of AMCON, and one of the top 10 pillars President Muhammadu Buhari’s change agenda.
The appointment was widely seen as one of President Buhari’s far-reaching anti-corruption measures, following the many allegations of incompetence and impropriety which had haunted the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria’s previous management boards, as they did many other government institutions.
In the Six years since Kuru’s appointment, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has greatly stepped up its attempts to recover massive debts owed by notorious obligors, giving the financial sector and the economy a much-needed boost. Kuru’s proficiency as the helmsman has enabled him to stabilize and re-vitalize mechanisms intended to effectively resolve the non-performing loan assets of Nigerian banks.
Speaking before a technical session of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance, and other Financial Institutions in August 2020, Kuru revealed that the total Assets Under Management (AUM) was N136.73 billion, with N112.03 billion in propriety assets, and that AMCON has over 400 obligors totaling over N5.4 trillion.
AMCON acquired Non-Performing Loans (NPLS) from various Eligible Financial Institutions (EFIs) in three phases, with the top five EFIs accounting for 58.18 percent of all purchased EBAs, according to Ahmed Kuru.
AMCON has a total portfolio of approximately 12,000 loans of all sizes and sectors that have remained unpaid for several years after the company was founded. To help Nigeria emerge from recession, Chief Kanu Godwin Agabi, SAN, a two-time former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, once urged judges in the country, particularly those who handle cases involving the AMCON and its debtors, to put pressure on the obligors to repay the massive debts, which he claims could revitalize the economy if recovered.
He also praised the new AMCON legislation, which was signed into law by President Buhari in August 2019 and gives the company more authority to recover debts owing to heritage banks.
AMCON introduced the Assets Management Partners (AMP) scheme in 2016 as part of its renewed strategy to resolve these loans. The scheme aided the corporation’s recovery activities, particularly in tracing, identification, and location of obligors with the intent to resolve their outstanding indebtedness; and tracking, identification, and location of obligors’ assets (both pledged and unpledged).
The AMPs, among other things, were empowered, according to Kuru, to negotiate a settlement and restructuring terms with identified obligors; pursue and enforce debt recovery and collection activities aimed at achieving set targets, and initiate legal actions to further the loan recovery mandates in accordance with approved guidelines.
However, the Kuru method is much more than just a debt-recovery technique. He’s also put out a three-year business plan that includes, among other things, enlisting private-sector management experience to turn around some of the ailing assets into productive businesses that can be sold at a profit.
This is in accordance with AMCON’s fundamental mission, which is to intervene, prevent companies from failing, and pump cash and experience into them in order to turn them around and make them appealing to investors.
Kuru has direct expertise in turning around businesses, and he has done so successfully. Mr. Kuru was appointed Managing Director of Enterprise Bank, one of the insolvent banks whose toxic assets were absorbed by AMCON, under the former management of AMCON. Enterprise Bank went from a loss to a profit in less than three years under his leadership.
As CEO of Enterprise Bank, he oversaw a 36 percent increase in the bank’s balance sheet and a 30 percent increase in deposits at a period when the Central Bank had implemented the 75 percent Credit Reserve Ratio policy for public funds.
He is also credited with improving the bank’s asset quality, which resulted in a considerable reduction in non-performing loans (NPLs), as well as launching a rebranding campaign that gave the bank a new corporate identity.
His turnaround prowess has also seen him take took full ownership of Aero Contractors, one of Nigeria’s most successful but debt-ridden airlines. Aero Contractors was one of the airlines whose toxic assets were absorbed by AMCON when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy due to ballooning debts to the now-defunct Oceanic Bank.
Ahmed Kuri was instrumental in the successful merger of Habib Bank and Platinum Bank to become Bank PHB, one of Nigeria’s most lively banking companies, which he grew to prominence before being acquired by AMCON and renamed Keystone Bank Limited.
His background includes work as a Budget Analyst at the Federal Ministry of Finance before being designated Executive Vice Chairman of Emeritus Capital Limited, a financial services firm focusing on international business development with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ahmed Kuru is a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Master’s Degree in Business Administration. He is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Lagos Business School, and London Business School. He has attended numerous workshops and seminars around the world, including the Columbia Business School’s High Impact Leadership program in New York.
Onome Amawhe is an international journalist with Zenger News and Forbes Magazine. He is also a regularly published public affairs commentator.