By Tordue Salem
ABUJAâ€”The House of Representatives yesterday took a bill seeking in part to secure unclaimed dividends held in banks and other financial institutions through second reading.
The Bill which was read for the second time by Rep. Chuka Nwauwa (APGA/Ohaji/Egbema/Imo State), titled, a â€œBill for an Act to Establish the Unclaimed Dividends and Abandoned Property Trust Fund charged with the responsibility of identifying and Maintaining Database of Unclaimed dividends, Abandoned Property and Investment in Banks, Financial Institutions and Public Companies in Nigeria. â€
Mr. Nwauwa, the sponsor of the Bill, in his lead debate claimed that â€œThere is an excess of N20billion of abandoned properties, assets and unclaimed dividends yet to be claimed because of lack of fund.
A co-sponsor of the Bill, Rep. Samaila Muhammed (ANPP/Jos North/Bassa/Plateau), stressed that the figure from the sponsorsâ€™ account was in excess of â€œN1trillion nairaâ€ in unclaimed dividends as against â€œthe conservativeâ€ figure of just N20billion mentioned by the leader of the debate.
â€œN20billion is a conservative estimate. The amount of unclaimed dividends from our finding was in excess of N1trillion. We discussed earlier as a Committee and we came out with the figureâ€, he said.
The lawmaker said as â€œA Director at the Petroleum Training and Development Trust Fund, PTDF, we discovered our unclaimed dividends were lying in the banks in hundreds of millions without a proper process for the next-of-kins or the owners to reclaim them.
â€œMr. Speaker, I want to sugges that there is a need to criminalize the activities of banks, as regards unclaimed assets and dividendsâ€, he said.
The Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, Rep. Uche Ekwunife (Njikoka/Dunukofia/Anambra State), in her contribution to the debate, suggested that a â€œcomprehensive data bank be established to take count of properties and assets of unclaimed dividends and assetsâ€, as according to her, that should be the foundation for â€œthe establishment of such a fund.
The Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Finance, Rep. Leo Dilkon (PDP/Pankshin/Kanam/Plateau State), however, took a different line, by adding that the â€œEFCC for starters should be summoned by the House to furnish it with details of stolen assets recovered since the last few yearsâ€.
For Rep. Emmanuel Jime(PDP/Makurdi/Guma/Benue State), the Bill failed â€œto establish a nexus between unclaimed dividends and Abandoned propertiesâ€
A few lawmakers who opposed the Bill outright are: Reps Terngu Tsegba(PDP/Gboko/Tarkaa/Benue State), Oluwole Oke(Ijesha North/Ijesha South/Osun State) and Aliyu Wadada(PDP/Keffi/Kokona/Nassarawa State).
The Bill scaled second reading and was referred to House Committee on Capital Market and Institutions.