Re: Unclaimed dividends

SIR: The Guardian on Sunday May 31, 2015 featured the ever-recurring issue of unclaimed dividends. One is inclined to believe that there is no dearth of THINK-TANK to be employed to proffer a lasting solution in order to considerably reduce the huge amounts in the kitty of quoted companies. What is apparently responsible (from my point of view) is one of the well known Nigerian factors – compromise.

In the said article, factors “aiding and abetting” accumulation of unclaimed dividends were highlighted and some suggestions on the way out were also put forward. Emphasis was laid on e-dividend payment, which (according to the write-up), was introduced in 2008. This measure, undoubtedly, has no effect on previous pile of unclaimed dividends. As at now, companies are still urging shareholders to opt for e-dividend by attaching forms along with dividend warrants.

Some shortcomings militating against payment of unclaimed dividends were listed including “lack of indication of Next-of-Kin (emphasis on) by shareholders…’’

About two decades ago, the then President of ICAN made a clarion call on NSE, stock-holders, quoted companies and registrars “to find solutions to the problems of unclaimed dividends held by them so that funds held become re-investible for the benefit of the capital market”. The Guardian of Sunday, Sept. 14, 1997 refers.

In reaction to that appeal, a rejoinder from a concerned citizen was published in The Guardian of Sunday, November 29, 1997. A number of suggestions was made after pointing out certain impediments that make it cumbersome to obtain “Letter of Administration” in the case of those who died intestate. The only point worth being adopted (and partially too) was inclusion of NEXT-OF-KIN on a share sale/ transfer form. One says partially in the sense that what should be the roles of a next-of-kin were not specifically spelt out. One is of the opinion that such a person should be regarded as alternative signatory in case the unexpected happens to the original shareholder – death (the ultimate), attack of stroke or any other hazard of old age. Featuring next-of-kin on application forms is of no effect – it is a mere dummy.

One would strongly advocate that relevant authorities (stakeholders mentioned above by ICAN President) should revisit the issue of next-of-kin as recommended in the rejoinder earlier mentioned. Technology is now playing unprecedented role in curbing corrupt practices in all its ramifications if properly applied. Quoted companies should now take advantage of bio-data phenomenon in updating particulars of a next-of-kin in order to facilitate claiming of dividend warrants without much ado. This could be done at no expense on the part of those companies. In this wise, access to redeeming outstanding warrants would have been created.

Another way out is to make use of National Identity Card (NID) or permanent voters’ card (PVC) by affixing photocopy on a special form. In addition, passport photograph and signature of the person so chosen should also be on the form. With Death Certificate presented, there should be no further delay.

Finally, one is calling on the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank to mop up unclaimed dividend funds lying fallow in the books of all quoted companies for public use. Legislation should be put in place to that effect but only allowing them to hold on to dividends of five-year duration from the current year.

• Kolawole Akinwande,

No Comments yet