Nigeria: Shareholders Disagree With Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Over N170bn Unclaimed Dividend

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Shareholders of quoted companies in the country have disagreed with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the use of the reported N170billion unclaimed dividend in the Nigerian capital market.

They expressed shock on N170billion reported by the Commission, stating that registrars on their part have worked with shareholders to further create awareness and reduce unclaimed dividend in the capital market.

THISDAY reliable gathered that unclaimed dividend in the banking sector in 2020 increased as banks recorded growth in dividend paid to shareholders.

Specifically, Zenith Bank Plc in 2020 financial year reported N28.04billion unclaimed dividend from N25.6billion while Access Bank unclaimed dividend dropped to N15.73billion in 2020 from N15.88billion reported in 2019.

FBN Holdings reported N9.62billion unclaimed dividend in 2020 from N8.09billion in 2019.

Further findings revealed that Dangote cement unclaimed dividend closed 2020 at N4billion from N3.5billion.

The Commission recently attributed growth in unclaimed dividend to identity management and multiple subscriptions of investors.

The DG of SEC, Lamido Yuguda, said the figure had increased from N158 billion as of December 2019.

Unclaimed dividend in the capital market has increased from over N2 billion in 1999 to N120 billion recorded in 2018.

But in a telephone chat with THISDAY, at the weekend, Chairman, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Boniface Okezie said the N170 billion unclaimed dividend declaration by SEC is “just speculation”.

According to him: “I don’t think the figure disclosed by SEC’s DG on unclaimed dividend is true. Has SEC find out from registrars how much is unclaimed dividend in the capital market and how the Commission confirmed that we have N170bilion unclaimed dividend?

“Since SEC announced that the fund has been taken over by government, a lot of shareholders have come forward to claim their money from registrars. The N170billion quoted by SEC’s DG is unrealistic and ambiguous. They will need to sit down and do their homework. SEC needs to reach out to registrars and ask for how much paid out and how much is left.”

He added, “Commission is looking for avenue to corner unclaimed dividend in the NCM and it can’t work.”

Collaborating with Okezie, the National Coordinator Emeritus, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Sunny Nwosu said, “unclaimed dividend quoted in newspapers is not up to N170billion. Unclaimed dividend in the capital market is reducing everyday and genuine people are claiming their dividend. It can’t never been what is quoted in the public any longer.”

He hinted that unclaimed dividend in the NCM does not belong to government but to investing public.

Speaking on factors responsible for unclaimed dividend, he said: “A lot of shareholders have other means of surviving, I have received numerous enquiry, asking me if a certain company exist in the capital market. However, these companies continued to grow and dividend paid.

“Majority of shareholders invested and they don’t know the reason of investing in some paying dividend stocks.

He mentioned multiple accounts, and deceased investors as key factors contributing to unclaimed.

He said: “A lot of shareholders invested in the stock market and when they die, their children might not know expect for few that were informed.

“The long process of family members demanding for their deceased unclaimed dividend is another discourage factor. Some people also laundered stolen money through the capital market and the fear of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) aided unclaimed dividend.”

– Thisday

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