By CHIMA TITUS NWOKOJI
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently issued a circular on the prohibition of further credit facilities to debtors whose accounts have been assigned to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
In reaction to objections raised by specific debtors and the need to make the corporation’s position clear on the subject, AMCON confirmed that it supplied the list of its debtors to the CBN in the course of its compliance with due administrative regulation. But a principal partner at Victor Ukutt & Co, Mr. Victor Ukutt, who has represented some debtors whose names were wrongfully published by CBN, told Daily Sun that most of the so called debts owed to AMCON are fictitious.
The idea of publishing debtors’ names and the reluctance of some debtors to pay
Most of the much talked about indebtedness to AMCON are fictitious. Let me give you an example. I have a client that applied for credit facility of N200 million. The bank did not give him the money…but in the record inside the bank, they put it down that the man has borrowed the money. They credited the man with N200 million and immediately transferred the money to another person’s account. From that person’s account the money went into another account, and finally disappeared.
They went to Ife Modakeke and got another man to do a legal mortgage of a one and half plot of land for N200 million. When the bubble now burst, CBN wrote to my client that he was indebted to a bank for N200 million and unleashed EFCC on him. He did not understand what they were talking about. He told them that yes he planned to take a loan but it was not granted. He came crying, and we asked the bank to bring their record.
He was asked whether he gave cheque or any instruction for fund transfer. The man said he did not know what they were talking about. I asked him whether he knew the property and the man at Ife Modakeke, and he said there was nothing like that. I wrote to CBN to the effect that our client saw his name in the newspapers, even when he has borrowed no money. Whether the bank has taken and shared the money, I don’t know.
He did not receive one naira from the bank…and they said we must pay. We had to sue the bank, CBN, NDIC and EFCC, requesting a drawdown instruction and how the man collected money. We also asked the bank to show us the cheque my client used in drawing the money, they could not. The bank gave false information to AMCON that they were selling this particular debt to it, but it was empty facility shared among fraudulent staff. So, sometimes I don’t sympathize with the so called bank directors who stole customers’ money.
Some bank workers and directors sat down and plotted fictitious facilities. Sometimes they pass monies through somebody’s account and have it transferred out. That is why in the recent past you see the neck of a young banker, earning N80,000 per month as a teller, swollen like a football. He will buy big cars and build mansions. You will be wondering how he made his money, without knowing he has stolen somebody’s money. If you see the level of ‘wuru-wuru’ going on in the banking system, you will marvel.
Oceanic Bank and AMCON loan
We are specialists in corporate, property, oil and gas, shipping, aviation and immigration matters. We are having a case now with AMCON. The corporation claimed to have bought a loan from Oceanic Bank at the cost of N1.9 billion. The bank is now telling us to come and pay N3 billion, including principal and interest. My client said he has been servicing the debt to the point that the so called debt remains only N650 million.
He borrowed N2.65 million and paid N2.75 million. So, he only owed accumulated interest. We went to court and it was established that in the eye of the law, what my client is supposed to pay was N2 million. We won the case against the bank and paid only N2 million, instead of N3 billion.
Debtors who capitalize on loopholes in legal system to avoid payment
No, not really. It is a combination of two; the banks are the most fraudulent in granting credit facilities. I have a department that handles banking matters. Nigerian the men and women in the banking profession are the worst thieves one can think of. I have seen so many fraudulent things the banks have done to their customers. When I get information that a bank has defrauded its customer and put the blame on the poor customer to pay, I normally pull my legal knowledge and punish the bank.
I have done that to so many banks. You go and borrow like N100 million from a bank, the bank will take all sorts of charges, and what they will eventually give you will be like N80 million. They will then put you on their debtors list and manipulate the account, which will make the man to become recalcitrant – the debtor he does not want to be. They compound so many more interests used to take that money. When you give a property to them, they go and register the property under N100 million. Meanwhile, they can declare less to government to enable them pay less term duty, while the loan they gave you was N2 million.
I tell clients the truth. I don’t want to build a false hope to my clients. There was a case where a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) had a bad case. Instead of telling his client the truth, he collected millions of naira from him. Still, the man lost the case scandalously. When pronouncement was made in court, his client was shivering like Chrismas goat. If he had told the man the truth, the man would know how to handle it. A good lawyer will tell his client to withdraw the case and make peace.
The case can also be settled out of court, so that you have something to fall back on, and there will be no need of going into litigation. Most times I don’t want to go into court where I will be embarrassed by the judge. There was a client I had, who brought a case to me and, having looked at the facts of the case, though he brought much money to entice me, I told him that it is a bad case. I told him I don’t need his millions.
Surviving through underground economy
Today, most people cannot say they are sure of the next meal. Majority of the population of this country is surviving through underground economy. People live on pervasion, as if it is now a way of survival. They believe that if you do not cut corners you cannot make any headway. It is not helping us because if you go outside and see how they discriminate against Nigerians, you will run back. So many people outside know that they are looked at as tenth citizens.
It is only when you have the talent a Whiteman needs that he will welcome you, and when he taps into your talent and have his purpose achieved, he dumps you and walks away. Most Whitemen you see here are worse in their country, and they come in here looking for where to sell their products. If they were doing well in their countries, they won’t come here. Governance is all about the welfare of the citizen, but we are not running a welfare society. What we are running is underground economy, and see what it is doing to our people.
I give an instance: A clerk in the office is ready to sell an empty office flat file to get some money. A court official has made my case file to disappear because he has collected money from my opponent. A litigant will come and they will tell him; “‘oga’, we are still looking for the file.” Eventually, when you get tired you file another one and the next thing you will hear is ‘multiple applications, case dismissed.” A female bank worker in Abuja, who is earning N50,000 or N60,000, would find it difficult to pay rent and feed well
. So, she has no option than to complement her work with prostitution. That is underground economy. The people in government have forgotten that when the poor is awake, the rich cannot sleep. When the people you are governing are hungry, they will terrorize you.
In South Africa, the day a child is born, there is a record of that particular birth…and if someone dies a minute after 2 am, it will be recorded in the movement control. So, five minutes later, if another person wants to use that person’s identity to do transaction, the person will be arrested. In our own case, there is no proper record of persons and incidences. We don’t have information concerning anybody. That is why people can commit any type of crime and go scott-free. How can a society grow with this level of irresponsibility? It is only this GSM that the South Africans brought that pushing us to begin to have biometric information about people. We claim to have so much resource but have no direction.
Budget performance contract
The fact remains that so many of these politicians do not know what they are doing. If you budget a certain amount of money and do some work, you will make more money. But in Nigeria they think leadership is all about sitting in government houses and sharing money. They are fools. When you are not doing anything and money is disappearing, people will ask questions, of course.
Take the case of the recent flooding in our country, it was as if the National Assembly was begging the Executive to bring a supplementary budget and the president was dillydallying. It’s the same with most governors. Respond to the people’s cry and, if after attending to them money remains, nobody will raise eyebrow because you have done what you ought to do. It is like when most people enter into office, they lose all sense of direction.
Defending the defenseless with no money involved
I have a pro-bono department in my chambers. It is a department that handles free cases. In this office, the poor people cover majority of our clients. I have handled so many cases for indigent clients to the point that I returned one day and asked myself if my chamber has been turned to a pro-bono office.