Ahmed Kuru and his adversaries

By James Imoru

BEING a beacon of integrity in an abundantly blessed but criminally managed, consciously monetized society like Nigeria can be daunting. Ask the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) boss, Ahmed Lawan Kuru. Confronting the hawks who wrecked the banking sector with unpaid loans and thus forced the creation of the corporation in the first place is not just a daunting task; it is an assignment strewn with perils, including lawfare and media wars by profiteers from the people’s pain, the friends and enablers of criminals. For one thing, the obligors of AMCON are in the commanding heights of political power, and if the nation has learned anything in the past few years when the corporation and these enemies of state have been locked in a battle, it is the fact that criminals do not like exposure.

In 2017, Kuru was garlanded as the African Best Rated CEO of The Year at the second edition of the National Development Forum (NDF)/award ceremony organized by African Development Magazine. Explaining the criteria for the selection of Kuru at the event, the media house stated that the AMCON boss was adjudged winner by the panel of judges after a careful evaluation of his difficult assignment at AMCON and the fact that he went about it in a way that supported the anti-graft war in the country. As it noted, it was a herculean task chasing dangerous debtors who had borrowed money from taxpayers to fund their lavish lifestyle while deliberately refusing to pay back and thus contributed to crippling the Nigerian economy. The same point was canvassed by the management of the New Telegraph when they bestowed upon Kuru the maiden edition of the “Public Integrity Award 2021.” The AMCON boss, they averred, was selected from a large poll of public servants heading different Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government across Nigeria because of his commitment, dedication, uprightness, and patriotic zeal that he has gone about the recovery drive from AMCON obligors who owed Nigeria a current outstanding debt of over N4.4trillion.

As a popular Nigeria musician quipped, “it is divinity that abhors falsehood, the world wants no forthrightness.” And yet someone must stand up to be counted; someone must dare the status quo and rescue the nation from ruin. That is the kind of job Dora Akunyili had, and it is the kind of job Ahmed Kuru has. It is no wonder, then, that hiding under pseudonyms (fake names) and purveying the most blatant of falsehoods, certain anti-Kuru elements have gone on an overdrive in the media in recent times, cooking up falsehood against the high-flying, phenomenally cerebral, passionately committed and resource-savvy AMCON boss. Combining innuendos with conjecture and vile abuse with sheer envy, they are doing their level best to robe the AMCON boss in the garb of a villain and get him out of the way. They are movers and shakers within the Nigerian landscape and they are not content with the multiple frivolous cases they filed in court in a desperate attempt to get away with crimes for which in saner climes they would presently be rotting in jail. The tactic is unmistakable: take Kuru’s job away from him by casting aspersions on his integrity, forcing the president to remove him. This is, to say the least, a devious tactic, and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will not be moved by it. He is much too sophisticated to be swayed by charlatans masquerading as social crusaders. Convicts of financial crimes and the brains behind failed banks fazed by the public spirit with which Kuru works can only rage using media hounds; they must not be allowed to turn back the hands of the clock.

The fact that a good number of AMCON obligors who have no business occupying public office given their role in wrecking Nigeria’s financial system are now occupying top government offices should be a source of concern. But the fact that they are using public funds to sponsor all manners of attacks against AMCON is even more egregious. They are using public funds to protect their crime and take out those who dared to challenge them. They detest AMCON and its debt-recovery efforts with passion. And their pain was compounded by the fact that following his stellar performance in the first five years at the helms of affairs of AMCON, President Muhammadu Buhari reappointed Kuru, a career banker with professional experience spanning nearly four decades across investment banking, risk management, operations, human capital management and marketing, for another term of office in 2021.

As Managing Director/CEO of the former Enterprise Bank Limited, Kuru oversaw phenomenal growth. Within the first two years of his leadership, the bank made over N11billion profit, solidifying the path of profitability. It is a fact that it was AMCON that saved Arik Airlines, the largest local carrier, and Aero Contractors, Nigeria’s oldest carrier from shutting down operations, while making other strategic investments in a number of other local carriers, all of which have helped to keep the aviation sector afloat. The fact that AMCON has recovered about N1.8trillion from inception till date cannot be discountenanced, nor can the fact that it acquired about 12,000 Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) worth N3.7 trillion from 22 banks and injected N2.2 trillion as financial accommodation to 10 banks in order to prevent systemic failure.

In August last year, speaking in London, United Kingdom, at a training for Federal High Court judges from Nigeria, the AMCON boss indicated that the corporation’s recoveries in cash and in sale of assets had been made possible with the help of the Judiciary. This was because “granting of Exparte Orders as well as orders to attach traced assets have compelled most recalcitrant obligors of AMCON to come to the negotiation table.” The recalcitrant obligors, he said, had mastered the act of clinging to the technicalities rather than settling their established obligations. But the Kuru-led AMCON had never shirked its responsibilities. AMCON made a profit of N23.97 billion in 2020, which increased to N34.65 billion in 2021. In the year 2022, the corporation made N58.59 billion profit. It has consistently delivered on its recovery mandate since its inception. The figure was over N70 billion for 2023. Given the feelers from the corporation, things are bound to get even better under Kuru’s leadership in the days to come.

* Imoru, Civil Right Activist, contributes this piece through james_imoru@aol.com

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