The federal government is considering the creation of an unclaimed dividend and unutilised bank balance trust fund where dividends declared and unclaimed will be held.
Providing highlights of the 2020 finance bill at a webinar organised by KPMG in collaboration with the ministry of finance, budget and national planning on Friday, the finance ministry said the funds would be owed as a perpetual debt to shareholders.
Explaining the justification for the policy direction, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said the plan corrects an anomaly in the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) which provides that shareholders will lose their rights to unclaimed dividends after 12 years.
The CAMA states that such monies will be returned to the company for redistribution to other shareholders.
“In place thereof, it is proposed that such unclaimed dividends should be handed over to the government, as trustee, in a perpetual fund created under the supervision of the CBN & DMO etc with private sector involvement in the governance of the fund,” a presentation at the webinar read.
“The liability to shareholders will no longer be extinguished after 12 years.”
The ministry further explained that such funds could be used to fund infrastructure projects.
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.