By Segun Amure, (The New Diplomat’s Abuja Bureau)
The Deputy Director of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare has cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari’s government against plan by the administration to borrow from unclaimed dividends and dormant accounts owned by Nigerians.
The Federal Government had on Wednesday, 6 January announced the decision to borrow from dormant accounts in line with the Finance Act 2020, recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“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 Act read.
However, SERAP while reacting to the move called on Buhari to desist from borrowing from unclaimed dividends and dormant accounts and respect Nigerians’ right to property.
In a letter dated January 9, 2021, Oluwadare said, “Borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts amounts to an illegal expropriation, and would hurt poor and vulnerable Nigerians who continue to suffer under reduced public services, and ultimately lead to unsustainable levels of public debt”
“The right to property extends to all forms of property, including unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts. Borrowing these dividends and funds without due process of law, and the explicit consent of the owners is arbitrary, and as such, legally and morally unjustifiable.” he said
Also, SERAP further advised that, “Rather than pushing to borrow unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts, your government ought to move swiftly to cut the cost of governance, ensure review of jumbo salaries and allowances of all high-ranking political office holders, and address the systemic corruption in MDAs, as well as improve transparency and accountability in public spending.”
However, Oluwadare added, “SERAP is concerned that the government has also repeatedly failed and/or refused to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of recovered stolen assets, and the loans so far obtained, which according to the Debt Management Office, currently stands at $31.98 billion.
“We would be grateful if your government would drop the decision to borrow unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts, and to indicate the measures being taken to send back the Finance Act to the National Assembly to repeal the legislation and remove its unconstitutional and unlawful provisions, including Sections 60 and 77, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.” he said.