The Finance Act 2020 recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari has granted the federal government access to unclaimed dividends and bank account balances unattended to for at least six years as special credit to the federal government through the Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund.
According to the new Act 2020, the trust fund will be a sub-fund of the Crisis Intervention Fund.
“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.
The act, however, exempts official bank accounts owned by the federal government, state government or local governments or any of their ministries, departments or agencies.
According to the act, 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 also states that the original owners of the money can claim it at any time, the Cable reported.
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.
Other members of the governing council shall include the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), managing director of the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), a representative of the registrars of companies, two representatives of the shareholders’ association, a representative of the Bankers’ Committee and the director-general of the Debt Management Office as the secretary of the trust fund.
This move will make needed funds available to the federal government without foreign exchange worries or conditions attached to loans from multilateral lenders.
According to the Debt Management Office, Nigeria owed $31.98 billion to multilateral lenders like the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and African Development Bank (AfDB) Group as of September 2020.