By Nkiruka Nnorom
Aggrieved by the plan by the Federal Government to borrow the over N158 billion outstanding unclaimed dividends, shareholders have sued the government at Federal High Court of Nigeria, Abeokuta Division, seeking to restrain the government from going ahead with the plan.
They said allowing the Federal Government to go ahead with the plan would frustrate efforts by shareholders to recover any outstanding unclaimed dividend, given the tedious processes involved in making that claim as contained in the Finance Act, 2020.
The case has the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning and Accountant General of the Federation as respondents.
The shareholders, on the platform of Palm Wealth Shareholders Association, PWSA, in a court notice by their President, Emokeraro Simon, are praying the court to restrain the Federal Government from calling for or transferring the unclaimed dividends of the applicants (shareholders) in public quoted companies to the Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund to be floated by the government contrary to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights Act, Laws of the Federation.
According to them, doing so without proven legal and constitutional ground is unconstitutional and violates the applicants right to acquire and own moveable and immovable personal properties as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
In an affidavit in support of their application, the shareholders observed that they are “intimidated, in fact, psychologically traumatised and threatened” by the provisions of the Finance Act, 2020.
They argued that it would inflict grievous harm on the shareholders if the provision is allowed to come into operation and the dividends, which the shareholders are working seriously to claim, taken over.
They said: “The respondents have made it clear to borrow the unclaimed dividends to be deposited in the Unclaimed Dividend Trust Fund without our consent and authority.
“And it will be more difficult if not impossible to recover or claim them since we have to apply to the Chairman of the Unclaimed Dividend Trust Fund, which application has to be referred to the various registrars for clearance and verification before payment will be made to the owner.
“The process will be herculean, cumbersome, difficult, time and resources consuming than it is now.”