The House of Representatives says it will initiate investigations into how controversial oil marketer, Femi Otedola, suddenly cleared a N150 billion bank debt in a secret transaction that the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) has refused to make public.
Mr. Otedola was named Nigeria’s biggest bank debtor two weeks back, with liabilities totaling about N150 billion. Alongside several other big debtors, the businessman was blacklisted by the Central Bank from securing further bank loans.
Barely a week after the debtors list was made public, exposing the long-standing debts, AMCON’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mustafa Chike-Obi, reportedly said on Sunday the debt had been cleared through the transfer of Mr. Otedola’s asset and an undisclosed sum of money to AMCON as “full and final settlement” for his liabilities.
Despite the publicity already generated by the scandal, Mr. Chike-Obi reportedly declined disclosing what nature of Mr. Otedola’s assets were transferred that became at par with the more than hundred billion of naira he owed.
He also refused to state how much was repaid in cash just within a short span of days, reportedly citing confidentiality agreement binding the transaction.
“This is a positive development as the settlement by the biggest debtor to AMCON showed that there are no sacred cows because even a prominent businessman like Otedola has come out to settle,” Mr. Chike-Obi was quoted by ThisDay as saying on Sunday.
He added that the clearance came after months of negotiations with Mr. Otedola, a well-connected businessman and Peoples Democratic Party financier, recently embroiled in a bribery scandal.
The House said on Monday the secret deal was suspicious, and announced, in a late evening statement, that detailed investigations will be ordered into the exchange next week.
“We have observed with interest the payment of N140.9billion, being outstanding debts of a businessman, Mr. Femi Otedola, to AMCON.
“The 7th House of Representatives would, on return from its one week oversight tour constitute a committee to investigate the amount and the assets so transferred to AMCON,” he said.
Mr. Otedola has had a troubling run with the House since he claimed setting up a member, Farouk Lawan, for bribes; although lawmakers say he actually bribed Mr. Lawan to get his company, Zenon, off the list of indicted marketers that dubiously collected subsidy payments.
The investigations into the $3 million scandal have stalled at the House and with the police; with police claiming they have no evidence against either party.
House spokesperson, Mr. Mohammed, said the procedure by AMCON for clearing the debt, was “unacceptable.”“It is imperative to state that with the state of our economy this transaction was done with ‘confidentiality and secrecy’,” he said.
“It is curious that AMCON, being a government establishment which is under the purview of the National Assembly, could do that without the knowledge of the House.
He said the “National Assembly would be interested in getting full details of the transaction.”