The federal government moves to acquire the monies in dormant account balances and unclaimed dividends, empowered by the Finance Act recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund empowers Abuja to take money from unclaimed dividends and bank account balances left inactive for at least six years as a special credit facility.
The Act reads: “Any unclaimed dividend of a public limited liability company quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and any unutilised amounts in a dormant bank account maintained in or by a deposit money bank which has remained unclaimed or unutilised for a period of not less than six years from the date of declaring the dividend or domiciling the funds in a bank account shall be transferred immediately to the trust fund.”
The monies transferred to the trust fund will be a “special debt owed by the federal government to shareholders and dormant bank account holders.”
The Act stipulates that owners can claim their funds any time.
Bank accounts owned by the federal government, state government or local governments or any of their ministries, departments or agencies are exempt from the acquisitions.
Before the bill was passed, it raised concerns with lawmakers and trade unions such as Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria and the Association of Securities Dealing Houses, who kicked against the government’s plan to acquire the funds, as it is contrary to constitutional provisions to one’s rights to own property.
Finance minister Zainab Ahmed had said the funds would be owed as a perpetual debt to shareholders, during a webinar highlighting the 2020 Finance Bill in November last year.
Mrs. Ahmed said the operation of the trust fund will be supervised by the Debt Management Office (DMO).
The value of unclaimed dividends hit N158.4 billion at the end of 2019 and was projected to hit N200 billion by the end of 2020, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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