The President Muhammadu Buhari-led government will be borrowing from Nigerians unclaimed dividends and bank account balances unattended for at least six years.
According to the Finance Act 2020 recently signed into law by President Buhari, the unclaimed dividends and deposits in dormant bank accounts will be available as special credit to the Nigerian government through the Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund.
The Act states that the monies transferred to the trust fund will be a “special debt owed by the Federal Government to shareholders and dormant bank account holders”.
It also said that the original owners of the money can claim it at any time.
It read, “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 operation of the trust fund will be supervised by the Debt Management Office (DMO) and governed by a governing council chaired by the Finance Minister and a co-chairperson from the private sector appointed by the President.
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the value of unclaimed dividends hit N158.4 billion at the end of 2019.
Some bank accounts have also become dormant after the owners died or the accounts have been left unoperated for years and the owners did not register for bank verification numbers.
According to a report by the Debt Management Office, Nigeria’s total debt stock (foreign and domestic), as at June 2020 stood at N31. 01 trillion ($85.9 billion)- 8.31% increase when compared with N28. 63 trillion ($79.3 billion) recorded in March 2020.