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Deadline up for Nigerian tycoons to repay debts

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-08-26

In a row that has shaken the country's financial sector, the head of Nigeria's anti-graft agency, Farida Waziri (pictured), warned a group of influential tycoons late on Tuesday that the deadline for them to repay debts or face arrest had expired.

AFP - Nigeria's anti-graft agency warned a group of influential tycoons Tuesday that their time was up to repay debts to ailing banks or face arrest in a row that has shaken the country's financial sector.

"The deadline that I gave expires today. I hope that some of them are still running around to pay," Farida Waziri, the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), told reporters in Lagos.

"This is a very serious situation, it borders on economic sabotage of this country," she said.

Nigeria's financial sector has been in crisis since the central bank chief announced on August 14 that he was sacking the heads of five banks for bad management and for piling up billions of dollars in bad debts.

Some debtors have made payments since the ultimatum was issued a week ago, but the total amount of reimbursements was not yet available, Waziri said.

The EFCC has warned that those who failed to repay their debts by Tuesday would face arrest or prosecution as well as confiscation of their assets.

"Today marks the expiration of that ultimatum and it's my fervent hope that those concerned took advantage of the ultimatum to pay their debts," Waziri said in a statement.

"For those who failed to do so, they must be prepared to face the consequences," she said.

The central bank has published a list of dozens of prominent Nigerian businessmen as debtors to the ailing banks.

The list includes tycoon Aliko Dangote, rated by US Forbes magazine as one of the world's richest Africans with a net worth of around 3.3 billion dollars, as debtors to these banks.

Dangote, 52, who is also the new president of the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE), has denied managing the oil and gas company listed as owing Intercontinental Bank more than eight billion naira.

Central bank governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi put the total loan portfolio of the five ailing banks -- Afribank, Intercontinental Bank, Union Bank, Oceanic Bank and Finbank -- at 2.8 trillion naira (17.8 billion dollars, 12.6 billion euros).

Date created : 2009-08-26

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