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SEC: Unclaimed dividends rise to N117bn

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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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Senate to FG: Rescue missing Yobe schoolgirls

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…warns against Chibok girls’ experience

 

The Senate, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to speedily rescue the remaining missing students of Government Girls Science Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi in Yobe State, who were abducted by suspected Boko Haram insurgents on Monday.

The Senate also condemned, in strong terms, the attack by the insurgents and wondered why the Chibok girls’ abduction in 2014 by the same group had not served a lesson for the Federal Government as far as security of schools are concerned.

The resolutions of the Chamber on the Yobe school incident followed a motion sponsored by Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East). Ibrahim, who raised the motion through orders 42 and 52 of the Senate standing rules as a matter of urgent public importance, said that as at the time the insurgents attacked the school on Monday night, 926 students were in the school, but as at Wednesday, 46 were still missing. He said that the missing 46 students could not be said to be abducted yet, since the 880 rescued ones either came by themselves from the bushes around the school or brought by villagers from villages they ran to.

He said: “Nobody can categorically say or conclude now that the still missing 46 students of the school were abducted by the attackers or still trapped where they ran to, but the problem of such attacks needs to be critically looked into, to save the lives of school children generally and sustain their interest in education.

“For now, the situation on ground, as far as the attack was concerned, has not taken full dimension of the Chibok schoolgirls experience of April 2014, many of whom are still in captivity till today and we pray it doesn’t get to that stage.”

Contributing, the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, said that after the Chibok incident, it was the prayer and hope of every Nigerian that such should not happen again in any part of the country. Lawan commended both the federal and Yobe State governments for immediate action toward rescuing the girls, stressing the need to be proactive in protecting the schools in the country.

However, Senator Mohammed Hassan (Yobe South) disagreed with Lawan in commending the state government, saying that the Yobe government deserved no commendation, accusing it of neglecting the primary responsibility of protecting lives of its citizens. Senator Joshua Lidani said that the Chibok incident should have sent a signal to the country that secondary schools, especially girls, were most vulnerable.

“This spate of kidnapping happens whenever the insurgents are being severely attacked or they are on the run. They will devise a means to abduct people so that they will negotiate with the Federal Government for ransom and this empowers them. If government continues to pay ransom, it means that the insurgents will continue with this kind of attack,” Lidan said. In his remark, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said that the incident provided a reason for another level of policing.

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NNPC facing political interference towards 2019

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Nigeria Natural Resource Charter, (NNRC), yesterday, declared that commercial decisions and operational activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would be subjected to more political interference as the “2019 elections are looming.”

The Charter, which declared this in its 2017 Benchmarking Exercise Report, launched in Lagos, scored NNPC low on transparency and accountability. Using its 12 Precepts as measurement, the NNRC also scored the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and Federal Government “so low” on local impacts.

“Policies to ensure meaningful participation by the affected communities are absent and the negative effect outweighs extraction benefits. The government agencies responsible for monitoring Environment Impacts Assessments lack the technical and financial capacity to enforce compliance,” the Precepts 5 of the Report read. On the State-Owned Enterprises, the NNRC said that the government still muddle in the NNPC’s businesses. “The observed muddling of the corporation’s business roles with its non-commercial and auxiliary regulatory functions continues.

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$1.2bn debt: 20m 9mobile subscribers face network cut off in 2022

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Consequent upon complications arising from the $1.2billion loan default by 9mobile (Etisalat) to a consortium of banks, about 20 million Nigerians who are subscribers of the telecoms company would be cut off from the network services of the company in 2022.

That is even as over four thousand staff of the company risk being laid off in the same year. This was revealed during the investigative hearing by the Senate Joint Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Communications and two others, which was mandated to investigate the loan default which is threatening the existence of the 9Mobile.

This, according to the Committee, can only be averted if a new buyer emerges, takes over the company and pays off the debt before the 15 years operational license given to the company expires in 2022. Speaking at the investigative session, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), represented by the Director of Legal Services, Yetunde Akinoye, stated that the 9Mobile was given a 15 year license in 2007, to operate in Nigeria, which according to her, will expire in 2022.

She said that, given the financial crisis facing 9mobile, the hope was that a new investor (buyer) would emerge to take over the company, pay back the consortium of banks the loans which the original owners of the telecom company collected, and also pay for the renewal of the license to retain the services and subscribers. She said if this was not possible, the banks, in alliance with their security trustees, might push to enforce the loan conditions on the 9Mobile, which she explained, might involve stripping the telecoms company to recover their investment.

Akinoye further recalled that although she was not privy to the loan agreements, the NCC got a letter on the 21st of June, 2017, from the Security Trustee of 9Mobile, notifying them that there was a loan default and that the lenders (banks) wanted to enforce the legal implication.

She said the banks, which had already taken over the telecoms company, wanted the board of the 9mobile to be dissolved and a neutral person brought in, to which they wanted the CBN to takeover. She said the CBN governor who did not want the apex bank to become involved, however dissolved the old board and constituted a new board chaired by the CBN Deputy Governor, to ensure that the 20 million subscribers and four thousand staff were not left high and dry.

On why the NCC could not allow the banks to take full ownership of the company, the NCC representative said “the transfer of license is not allowed by NCC except under certain condition but they can transfer the shares. The banks were only interested in getting their money but not to run the company”.

She also said the NCC, unlike the CBN in the case of banks, does not have powers by the Act establishing it, to take over telecoms company that are collapsing. Akinoye also said that given the way Mubadala and the associate paid $250 million to get the Etisalat license, NCC never suspected that anything would go wrong, adding that the NCC was already doing a forensic investigation.

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