13 February 2013

Nigeria: Pay Your Debt, AMCON Tells Babalakin

The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) Tuesday advised the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Group, Dr. Wale Babalakin, to pay his debt instead of embarking on gimmicks aimed at distracting the corporation from performing its duties.

The corporation also dismissed the claim by Babalakin that he is not indebted to the corporation in any manner whatsoever, describing it as nothing but pure falsehood.

AMCON, in a press conference addressed by its lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), clarified that Babalakin's cumulative indebtedness to First Bank, Zenith Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) now stands at about N60 billion, and that the debt profile of the businessman had been purchased by AMCON from the banks.

Agbakoba, who expressed shock at Babalakin's claims of non-indebtedness, stated that the claim was not only unfortunate but also amounted to a huge joke.

Babalakin, who himself is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had addressed a press briefing on Monday where he stated that he was not indebted to AMCON and that the steps taken against him by the agency in respect of the loan was illegal.

Babalakin had stated that: "Our attention has been drawn to today's publication in many newspapers alleging that AMCON has taken over our property pursuant to a court order obtained ex-parte alleging indebtedness of N13.9 billion.

But Agbakoba faulted the claim, and advised Babalakin, who he regarded as "a good friend" to approach AMCON for the restructuring of his debt profile.

He added that the Federal Government impeded his businesses does not mean that he will not pay his debts.

He noted that for fact that the Federal Government is owing him some money does mean that he would not pay AMCON the money he borrowed from the banks.

The former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said it was better for Babalakin to know that he cannot fight AMCON and succeed.

He added that a lot of debtors who are today walking free, had gone to the corporation to restructure their loans wondering why Babalakin was avoiding toeing the same line.

He noted that gone were they days when courts used to protect debtors who borrowed money and refused to pay, saying AMCON will recover all the debts owed it.

"It is not true that Babalakin Group is not indebted to AMCON. The fact that he got judgment against the Federal Government does not mean that he should not pay his debt to the banks.

"AMCON only took over the debt from the three banks so as to allow them concentrate on the business of core banking, and will inject the money back into the affected banks later.

"AMCON, for the avoidance of doubt, is established to assist businessmen and not to wind up their businesses.

"If my friend, Babalakin, should approach AMCON today, his debt profile will be restructured, and everybody will be happy.

"Today, he (Babalakin) has over 30 cases in court trying to buy time against the payment of his debt. I wonder how he sleeps because his indebtedness to AMCON is over N60 billion," Agbakoba stressed.

Also, Agbakoba expressed disappointment with the action of Babalakin so far after Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court in Lagos granted an ex-parte order permitting AMCON to take possession of Babalakin's property at 43, Afribank Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.

He said: "I have written to the Inspector General of Police to confirm whether his officers were used to sabotage a valid court order.

"Mr Babalakin also barged into the venue of the conference organised for judges of the Federal High Court with a team of policemen, and queried why he was not invited.

"In any case, we have filed a motion asking Justice Aneke to restore possession of Babalakin's property to AMCON," Agbakoba explained.

In his reaction, Babalakin accused AMCON of intentionally misleading the public on the facts of the issues in contention.

Babalakin in a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Dipo Kehinde, said AMCON has decided to engage in character assassination and cheap blackmail instead of responding to issues raised by Babalakin at a press conference on Monday.

Kehinde added that the N60 billion debt raised by AMCON is a "figment of AMCON's imagination which is consistent with AMCON's characteristic of being cavalier with issues especially facts and figures."

He added that BCL would not join issues with AMCON as to the circumstances of or the actual volume of Babalakin's indebtness to AMCON, but would urge the corporation to comply with the order of Justice G.K. Olotu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on April 5, 2012, in the suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/50/09.

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