Nigeria at Risk of Losing $15 Billion of Crisis-Era Bad Loans

Nigeria is facing the risk of never recovering about 5.5 trillion naira ($15 billion) of bad loans taken over during a banking crisis more than a decade ago.

The money is almost 80% of the West African nation’s revenue target for 2019 and 62% of planned spending by President Muhammadu Buhari, amounting to 8.9 trillion naira.

That is how much the state-owned Asset Management Corp., or Amcon, still has to collect from Nigerian companies that have failed to repay the debts they once owed lenders, Chief Executive Officer Ahmed Kuru said at a conference in Lagos on Wednesday. Delays in litigation are slowing the process, while tepid economic growth is weighing on the ability of businesses to survive, he said.

Modeled on organizations including Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency Ltd. and Korea Asset Management Corp., Amcon used bonds to bail out 10 lenders and buy more than 12,000 loans from industries including aviation, gasoline marketing and manufacturing after the 2008-09 oil price crash. It’s so far recovered 1 trillion naira, Kuru said.

Amcon needs to recover the outstanding debts to enable it to meet its obligations to the Central Bank of Nigeria, which provided the cash it used to repay holders of bonds that were issued to acquire the loans, he said.

The CEO said extending the operations of Amcon beyond its 2023 deadline would do more harm than good, because that could encourage bad behavior in the financial industry and among borrowers.

“The federal government should be appropriating the money yearly” required to meet its obligations should the bad debts not be recovered, Kuru said.

The money is almost 80% of the West African nation’s revenue target for 2019 and 62% of planned spending by President Muhammadu Buhari (pictured), amounting to 8.9 trillion naira.

Amcon plans to appoint advisers this year for the sale of Polaris Bank, a lender it took over last year after it breached central bank’s capital and liquidity thresholds, the CEO said. Amcon recapitalized Polaris Bank with 786 billion naira and has no plans to rescue other lenders, he said.

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