SEC: Unclaimed dividends rise to N117bn

Unclaimed dividends in capital market have risen to about N117 billion as of February 2017, New Telegraph has learnt. Besides, only 1.7 million out of 8 million Nigerians with investment in stocks have complied with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) e-dividend registration, leaving about 6 million non-compliant investors. Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr. Munir Gwarzo, disclosed these to this newspaper in an interview in  Abuja.

He said: “From records we received from the Registrars, as of the end of February, the total amount of unclaimed dividend is about N117 billion. But currently, our staff are with Registrars to actually verify this claim.”

Unclaimed dividends are those dividends, which have been paid by the company, but they are not being claimed by the shareholders, either due to ignorance, death or relocation without notifying the Registrar and, therefore, missed the dividend cheque.

This has remained an albatross for capital market industry. After years of intense deliberation by stakeholders, SEC came up with the National Investors’ Trust Fund. It has also launched e-dividend platform, an improved ITdriven channel for share dividend receipts.

Updating this newspaper on the current status of unclaimed dividends, e-dividend, including other issues confronting the industry and SEC as a regulator, Gwarzo said it was unfortunate that a lot of investors don’t pick up their dividends, a development he said gave rise to problem of unclaimed dividends.

The DG said: “We are also pushing for the establishment of National Investors’ Trust Fund to address some of the complaints of unclaimed dividends.

The reason for establishing it is number one; we don’t think the provision in Company and Allied Matter (CAMA) that states any dividend that is more than 12 years becomes a status bar.

It only states status bar; it didn’t state where those monies would be reverted. Number two, there is no country in the world that has a law that says after 12 years you cannot claim your dividend. We believe that after 13 or 14 years, once someone can come with genuine documents to prove that he/ she is the genuine owner of that document or is a beneficiary of that dividend; we believe that person should be able to own and claim those dividends. So, the whole thrust about unclaimed dividend trust fund is to ensure there is transparency.”

The Trust Fund, when operational, he said, will provide liquidity for the market.

The SEC DG explained that the warehoused unclaimed dividend fund is also an alternative source of fund to the market. On compliance with e-dividend registration, Gwarzo said compliance is yet to attain satisfactory level.

He said: “On the average, we have between 7.5 to 8 million investors in Nigeria. As of today, only about 1.7 million have registered for the e-dividend. Almost six million are yet to register. That is why we recently uploaded on our website the list of people that have not provided their account numbers and we are calling people to visit our website and check if their names have appeared so that they can approach their Registrars to register for the e-dividend.

“The e-dividend is a major game changer in this market. A lot of people hardly collect their dividends and this huge problem of unclaimed dividends is a function of people not picking up their dividend warrant.

The reason could either be because they have changed their address or the amount of transport they are going to pay to collect the dividend is far above the amount contained in the dividend. It does not make sense using N8,000 to collect dividend of N3,000. So, we want to address that.

That is why we are calling on Nigerians to register with e-dividend. We have posted on our website the list of investors that have not provided their accurate account number.”

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