AMCON versus Nigerian entrepreneur – By Louis Odion, FNGE

definition and operation, an interventionist agency should engage itself more
with the back-room work. It is a job for the sober, not the brash or the easily
excitable hustling for a mention on the front-page of the tabloid.
So, when
agents of an organ like the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON)
begin to speak in a manner that shows no restraint or act in a way that’s
unguarded, the rest of us should worry indeed. A statement attributed to the
AMCON boss, Ahmed
 Kuru, while making a presentation before a
senate committee recently is a classic example of how anyone wearing his shoes
should not speak in the public.

he sensationally declared, is about to fall because AMCON is left to bear the
crushing yoke of over N5 trillion non-performing loan while the debtors are
busy living large and junketing around the world in private jets. If he had his
way, Kuru would
 probably not mind the extreme option of having
everyone rounded up and summarily committed to jail if only to cash all the
outstanding debts.
True, the
word profligacy would today be inadequate to describe the lifestyle of some of
our business moguls,
 who seem incapable of separating profit from
working capital. But the fact that we have few bag eggs is not enough for AMCON
 to make such a sweeping generalization that lumps the wolves and
the lambs together. It is sad enough if, whenever he finds himself on foreign
soil, all President
 Buhari talks
 are stories that injure the pride and deflate the dignity of Nigerians
sojourning abroad. It will be going
 too far
if public agencies also take liberty now to criminalize all loan-takers at
To begin
with, with the quantum of public resources already sunk into the enterprises at
issue, one would assume the nation already pre-qualified as part-owner. Shouldn’t
commonsense then dictate
 circumspection in the
way you go about “naming and shaming”, lest you inadvertently end up
eroding the value of the assumed equities? Making reckless statements can only
fetch one dividend: inflicting further damage on the brand value of the listed
concerns. It shakes confidence in the market.
 Who will
then buy when AMCON is ready to sell?
When the
agency announced the take-over of AERO Contractors last week with a song and
dance, it was only playing to the gallery. It is public knowledge that
beginning from September 2012, AMCON had taken over the operations of the
airline as well as managed its
 cash-flow. So, technically speaking, it should
bear full responsibility for the airline’s
 balance-sheet in the past three years. If it was that easy, why hasn’t AERO been
nursed back to full financial health by now, having been under AMCON’s
“intensive care” all this while? If the accounts are still in red,
how appropriate is it then for the
 care-taker to still award self pass-mark in the circumstance?
For the
avoidance of doubt, this is not a defense of those responsible for running
aground an institution once touted as the epitome of efficient management in
the aviation industry. Indeed, with an illustrious pedigree dating back to
 the eve of nation’s independence, AERO was once what every airline wanted to be: efficient,
respectable and profitable. But along the line, it was either that the
management got derailed on account of cowboys taking over its reins or simply
infected by the peculiar Nigerian disease: profitability eroded by toxins under
an unbearably usurious climate.
But the
big question is: how
 genuine are the figures bandied by AMCON from
the outset? In financial circles today, stories are told of all manners of
dirty deals hastily
 concluded before
public funds were shared out as
 bail-out under
AMCON’s watch five years ago. To be sure, the trend is not peculiar to Nigeria.
Similar sharp practices were reported even in the United States in 2008/9 after
the Obama administration announced massive stimulus package to mitigate the
financial pestilence inflicted by the global mortgage crisis. After the bubble
burst, the pervasive culture of tardiness in US banking sector was exposed. In
many cases, banks had no records to prove just how much mortgage-takers owed.
federal investigators discovered that banks had resorted to an ingenuous design
called “robo-signing” in a systemic cover-up. It simply referred to
hiring someone to sign hundreds of fake affidavits in the name of mortgage-takers!
Of course, that formed the legal basis through which many poor Americans were
made to forfeit their homes.
specific reference to Nigeria’s own financial crisis of 2008/9, nothing has so
far been done to address widespread allegations of figures being sexed up by
some unscrupulous banks once signals came that Federal Government was
contemplating bail-out for distressed businesses.
As the
stories go, what many bank CEOs simply did following the reports was to compile
all their toxic loans (often without any collaterals!) and transfer same to the
accounts of businesses favored to be on the list of companies being proposed
for bail-out!
 Given the rush with which the exercise was
eventually carried out and the endemic
 lack of
 for details, no one seemed to have bothered to
verify the claims before humongous public funds were shared out as elixir for
the companies at the point of death then. The CEOs of the benefitting companies
were all too happy at the prospects of being spared EFCC’s cold kiss to raise a
finger of protest against the skeletons surreptitiously dumped in their
closets. Alas, six years later, the ghosts have now returned to haunt them.
This perhaps explains why most businesses currently under AMCON’s watch appear
primed to fail: the colossal debts ascribed to them are simply unsustainable.
truth be told, the
 Nollywood actors
currently calling the shots at AMCON today have themselves become part of the
problem with what seems a carnal obsession to impress President
 Buhari. Perhaps to save their jobs. I cite just one example. In its latest “name and shame”
parade, they
 listed Ifeanyi Uba among the delinquent debtors who must be held by
the scruff of the neck to pay up or heavens will fall. But interestingly, the
same AMCON, before our very eyes late in 2014,
 issued Uba a clean bill of health having “agreed with
other stakeholders to move forward”.
Then, Goodluck Jonathan was still president and Uba, a smart
dude, had ingenuously floated Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN),
 which became the frontline campaign platform for GEJ’s reelection
bid. After every rally he hosted on Jonathan’s behalf,
 Uba was often trailed by salacious tales of dollar
rain. Just where did that come from? Earlier,
 Uba’s Capital Oil was taken over by AMCON over its jaw-dropping exposure
running into tens of billions of naira, apart from another hefty N20bn
allegedly owed Cosmas Maduka,
 Coshcaris boss. But
 Uba started
chanting “TAN” all over Nigeria on GEJ’s behalf, insulting the
intelligence and sensibilities of all decent citizens of Nigerians in the
 these same characters at the AMCON hardly felt
any shame at all in coming out then
 to tell the nation that em, em, em Uba was now free to return to his swivel chair at Capital Oil. Just
like that! Of course, tens of billions of public funds had already exchanged
if Jonathan were in power today, it is doubtful if AMCON would have had the
balls to put Capital Oil on its latest scroll of
It is a reflection of the peculiar ethical principles that had defined AMCON’s
operations over the years. One sincerely hopes
 Buhari still has the presence of mind today to see through this charade.
against the aforementioned AMCON’s sweeping statement,
 which tends to cast the nation’s entire business community in in
bad light,
 special case should be made for the
conscientious ones who, I dare say, are in the majority. For Nigeria to survive
economically, we need to create more Adenugas and
 Dangotes for the future. The point to be made therefore is for the
political establishment to be more circumspect in the way and manner it relates
with businesses.
anything at all, the Nigerian entrepreneur deserves to be pitied for
 operating in an environment that’s everything but friendly.  I ran a business before. So, one is speaking from hands-on
experience. Bank’s shylock interest rate makes access to capital near
 On top of that, the
investor has to agonize how to generate own power
 because of irregular public
electricity supply.
A recent
survey in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa has also shown that skills and work
ethic are increasingly major concerns among employers.
 That is apart from a plethora of other problems from inconsistent government policies to multiple taxes,
corruption and other
 post-production problems. 
In short,
no matter their shortcomings, truth is our entrepreneurs remain the
 live-wire of the national economy.  Otherwise, imagine telecoms
sector in Nigeria today without Dr. Mike
 Adenuga Jnr. When GSM made its debut in Nigeria in 2001, we were initially
told that per second billing was not feasible by the pioneering MTN until 2006
for “technical reasons”. Of course, consumers were mindlessly
swindled through dropped calls, until Globacom
Per Second Billing and put an end to the nonsense.
does not just provide direct jobs for tens of thousands of Nigerians through a
portfolio of investments spanning telecoms, banking and oil and gas; he is also
a tireless philanthropist who however prefers to sow kindness across the
country and continent quietly. To say nothing of the boost he continues to
offer another critical sector in the economy: the Nollywood/entertainment
industry. By investing fortune here in form of corporate endorsements, the
material condition of artistes are bring transformed practically, thereby
extending the frontiers of creativity.
 Adenuga does not
just provide direct jobs for tens of thousands of Nigerians through a portfolio
of investments spanning telecoms, banking and oil and gas; he is also a
tireless philanthropist who however prefers to sow kindness across the country
and continent quietly. To say nothing of the boost he continues to offer
another critical sector in economy: the Nollywood/entertainment industry. By
investing fortune here in form of corporate endorsements, the material
condition of artistes is being transformed practically, thereby extending the
frontiers of creativity.
consider the sugar/construction industry today without
 Aliko Dangote. From little beginnings decades, Dangote has grown to an octopus today with tentacles
across the African continent. From being a net importer of cement for decades,
Nigeria, through
 Dangote, has now joined the league of exporter
of the construction staple. Hopefully, in another two years, the nation’s
dependence on importation of petrol/diesel/kerosene to meet domestic
consumption would also become history when Dangote
 Refinery finally comes on stream. This will in turn save the
country an average of $5bn spent on fuel importation yearly, thereby conserving
our foreign reserve and reducing the choking pressure on the naira.
In the
final analysis, what’s to be done?
independent body should be empaneled urgently to take a second look at the
claims filed to AMCON as the basis for drawing taxpayers’ money five years ago.
This should not take eternity. The true
 status of the debts claimed has to be established. Not until this is determined can we hope such companies would be
able to pay up what they truly owe before thinking of consolidating and
returning to profitability.
The changing face of romance
are living in a generation where people ‘in love’ are free to touch each
) but
cannot touch each others’ phones because they’re private.”
foregoing statement is culled from the social media and is attributed to
Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe. (However, this cannot be independently
verified.) Though the context is unstated, I guess it provides a fitting backdrop
to the weekend of Valentine to examine how technology is boldly altering the
architecture of love and the language of romance.
The older
generations will recall miles they sometimes trekked to recite poems or deliver
rose-scented letters
 expressing love. But distance and time have been effectively
bridged today via text messages, BBM,
 and Instagram. For the average lady of today, a gift of the latest i-phone conveys a stronger message of love than
a million intense words of romance.
every good thing, technology also has its negative side for romance. Many a
heart has been broken on account
 of same technology. It explains why some lovers protect their cellphones like nuclear secrets. Since wives won’t stop being inquisitive, husbands too have learnt
to disguise their secret concubines
 as “technical assistant”, “business partner” or
“professional colleague”.
appreciate the damage technology has done in the love industry, you only have
to recall
 the panic
that swept through the United States of America last
 time when some cyber-terrorists hacked into the
website of a secret dating agency called Madison Ashley and threatened to
reveal the identities, credit card numbers of millions of married men and women
involved in illicit sexual affairs. Many
 fearing the gate of hell-fire was about to be
opened to them.
Yet, technology provides the vehicle for the comedy of love as
well. When award-winning Port Harcourt-based poet,
 Amun Nnadi, was accused three weeks ago by a
freelance writer named M. Adebyo
forcibly kissing her without permission in 2014, he did not wait for the story
to go viral on the social media before penning a moving apology for that act of
“indiscretion” on his Facebook page: “I have read and heard a
lot that been said about how my manner of interaction with some younger female
writers within our literary commune has been quite inappropriate… I wish to
humbly seek a lasting healing for all affected…I truly regret this…Do
If you
consider that
 (too) farcical
to be true,
 wait until you
hear the other story of a 20-yr-old Iraqi migrant accused of raping a 10-yr-old
boy at a swimming pool in Vienna last week. When the police took him on, he
didn’t deny, only pleading that it was a case of
“sexual emergency” since he had not made love for four months.
innovation to its very limit, authorities in United Arab Emirate did the
unusual few days ago.They
 created a new agency called the “Ministry
of Happiness”.
 Its broad mandate? Formulate
policies “to create social good and satisfaction”. Well, with Val now
just two days away, there is no prize for guessing when and how the new
minister would seek to prove
 her mettle.
But before the zero
 hero, be sure people of Dubai are already keeping an eye on their cellphones awaiting further
hints of what to expect.
happy Valentine to the readers.


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