By Etuka Sunday
The Securities and Exchange Commission has stated that about N29bn of unclaimed dividends have been claimed by investors through the introduction of regularisation of multiple accounts.
The SEC introduced the regularisation of multiple accounts in 2015 where it requests all shareholders with multiple accounts to harmonise their accounts by filing e-dividend mandate forms and submitting same to their banks or stock brokers for onward transmission to their respective registrars
Director General of the SEC, Mr. Lamido Yuguda stated this during an investigative hearing on the need to investigate the rising value of inclined dividends, unremitted withholding tax on dividends and their attendant effects on nation’s economy organised by the House of Representatives in Abuja, Wednesday.
The SEC DG said the Commission is seeking that the issue of unclaimed dividends be brought to an end due to the importance of dividends in maintaining and sustaining investments in the capital market.
Yuguda stated the SEC has repeatedly canvassed and maintains that the most viable option is the removal of the 12-year bar for investors to claim their dividends imposed by CAMA.
He said additionally, accumulated unclaimed dividends should be invested through a capital market vehicle that will focus on critical infrastructure development for the benefit of investors.
This he said, will be a win all round, as the incentive for accumulating unclaimed dividends will be curbed, the investors who earned the dividends will benefit and the taxes levied on the capital market vehicle will generate the much needed revenue for the government.
Yuguda highlighted various initiatives by the SEC to address the challenges of unclaimed dividends to include abolition of use of in-house registrars by paying companies, for their operations to improve transparency and remove conflict of interest which has resulted in registrars becoming separate entities from their parent companies.
The SEC boss said another initiative is the prohibition of piecemeal payment of dividend by the formulation of Rule 108 (1)&(2) which mandates dividends to be paid en-bloc to the registrars within 24 hours by the paying company once approved at an Annual Genera Meeting. The registrars are in turn required to pay the shareholders within 24 hours.
“Other initiatives are creation of rule, requiring registrars to make electronic payment of dividends directly into shareholders accounts, engagement with the probate registry to improve the process of obtaining and administering probate.
“All these initiatives are aimed at improving the efficiency of dividend payments, reduce the quantum of unclaimed dividends and as a consequence grow and sustain the confidence of existing and potential investors” Yuguda stated.
The SEC DG disclosed that the Commission is currently working on an initiative to ensure consolidation of multiple accounts which involves the verification and isolation of the account beneficiaries with a deadline of first quarter of 2021. This initiative is in addition to the forbearance window granted by the Commission to holders of multiple accounts to show up and consolidate.
In his remarks, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market and Institutions, Hon. Babagida Ibrahim stated that the problem of unclaimed dividends has adverse effects on the economy of Nigeria.
He said the Committee is aware of the efforts of the SEC to address this including e-dividend, dematerialisation, among others which are all very commendable and to ensure that investors get the benefit of their investments.
Ibrahim however stated that every effort must be made to ensure that shareholders get the dividends from their hard earned investments.
“We are hoping that at the end of this public hearing, we will be able to find solutions that will solve the problems of unclaimed dividends in the capital market” he stated.
He assured the SEC that the committee will continue to engage with relevant stakeholders in a bid to bring the issue of unclaimed dividends to an end in a bid to boost investors confidence and attract them back to the market.
While declaring the Hearing open, speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt.Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said the House is determined to improve the effectiveness of the capital market in Nigeria.
Gbajabiamila said the issue of unclaimed dividends is of great concern to the National Assembly and expressed the hope that at the end of the Hearing solutions would be proffered.