The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, and the President of the Court of Appeal, Zainab Bulkachuwa, say the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) can leverage the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) infrastructure in courts in its debt recovery mandate.
The two justices’ spoke on Monday in Abuja at the interactive session between Justices of Supreme Court; Court of Appeal, AMCON and National Judicial Institute (NJI).
The discussion, which centered on how AMCON can effectively recover its outstanding N5.4 trillion debt, was on the theme ‘Strengthening AMCON Recovery Drive.’
In his opening address, Mr Onnoghen said the judiciary must be aware of the daunting task before AMCON in recovering the huge debts before its sunset period.
Mr Onnoghen said this required judicial support on one hand and for AMCON to think outside the box and come up with innovative ways of accomplishing its mission within the ambit of the law.
He said this was the only way AMCON would recover as much debts as possible.
“It is for this reasons I will encourage the use of ADR, as part of the mechanism put in place to resolve asset management related disputes in our courts,” the CJN said
The chief justice insisted it was in Nigeria’s interest that AMCON should succeed in its assignment
“Certainly, judicial time and capacity are scarce public resources; as such repeated delays constitute waste of these precious resources.”
He said a better understanding of the current trends in this area of the law would go a long way in curbing delays and waste of judicial time and resources, thereby helping AMCON in fulfilling its mandate.
The judiciary, the CJN assured, would continue to do its best to ensure judges remained conversant with the AMCON regime towards engendering efficiency, uniformity and improvement in the quality of judicial services in our courts.
For Ms Bulkachuwa, the ADR was key to fast tract debt recovery activities of AMCON and the eventual industrialisation of the Nigerian economy.
Asset Management Company of Nigeria
She urged AMCON to consider leveraging the ADR infrastructure now available in Nigerian courts towards speedy debt recovery.
The appeal court president said the CJN had consistently encouraged the use of ADR in view of the delays in adjudication caused by the density of cases in the dockets of the trial and appellate courts.
“The appellate courts trust this form of interactions holds the key to fast tracking debt recovery by AMCON and the eventual industrialisation of the Nigerian economy.
“The judiciary has been playing its constitutional role through dynamic and proactive, but fair and objective interpretation and enforcement of the AMCON Act by expeditiously determining AMCON cases by enacting AMCON practice directions at the Federal High Court, court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
Apart from the CJN considering an exclusive practice direction for AMCON at the Supreme Court, she said, the chief justice also advised AMCON lawyers to adopt the fast track window for all AMCON appeals at the Supreme Court.
The court of appeal has since issued a circular directing the expeditious disposition of all AMCON appeals, Ms Bulkachuwa said.
AMCON managing director, Ahmed Kuru, reminded the justices that his agency currently has a lot of cases pending at the Federal High Court because obligors of the corporation deliberately raise issues that would cause delay in justice.
“AMCON currently has over 3,000 cases pending at the Federal High Court. Given the litigious tendency of our obligors, we anticipate more than 50 per cent of the cases will proceed to the Court of Appeal and eventually the Supreme Court.
“We hope the special ‘practice directions’ issued by the President of the Court of Appeal will be very instrumental to speedy determination of the eventual appeals.
”The practice direction prescribed three months for concluding all AMCON matters. If the national assignment of recovering over N5 trillion of bad debts will be achieved, the practice direction needs to be strengthened and encouraged.”
Mr Kuru said AMCON has enjoyed the support and counsel of both the immediate past and incumbent CJN through the practice directions for expeditious hearing and determination of AMCON matters.
He appealed for its sustainability because ”it would go a long way to helping AMCON especially with its sunset in mind”.
He said the quest to recover more funds was the reason why AMCON moved from restructuring towards enforcements, meaning that even more AMCON cases would arrive the courts in the years ahead.
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