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Don’t Touch Unclaimed Dividends, Dormant Accounts, SERAP Tells Buhari

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to drop plans to borrow an estimated N895 billion in dormant bank balances and unclaimed dividends.

The group in a letter to the president urged him to use his leadership position “to promptly drop the plan by the Federal Government to borrow about N895bn of unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts using the patently unconstitutional and illegal Finance Act, 2020, and to ensure full respect for Nigerians’ right to property.”

The Finance Act, signed into law by Buhari last December, would allow the government to borrow unclaimed dividends and dormant account balances owned by Nigerians in any bank in the country.

But SERAP in a letter dated 9 January 2021 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The right to property is a sacred and fundamental right. Borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts amounts to an illegal expropriation, and would hurt poor and vulnerable Nigerians who continue to suffer under reduced public services, and ultimately lead to unsustainable levels of public debt.”

SERAP said: “The right to property extends to all forms of property, including unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts. Borrowing these dividends and funds without due process of law, and the explicit consent of the owners is arbitrary, and as such, legally and morally unjustifiable.”

According to SERAP: “The borrowing is neither proportionate nor necessary, especially given the unwillingness or inability of the government to stop systemic corruption in ministries, departments and agencies [MDAs], cut waste, and stop all leakages in public expenditures. The borrowing is also clearly not in pursuit of a public or social interest.”

The letter, read in part: “The security of property, next to personal security against the exertions of government, is of the essence of liberty. It is next in degree to the protection of personal liberty and freedom from undue interference or molestation. Our constitutional jurisprudence rests largely upon its sanctity.”

“Rather than pushing to borrow unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts, your government ought to move swiftly to cut the cost of governance, ensure review of jumbo salaries and allowances of all high-ranking political office holders, and address the systemic corruption in MDAs, as well as improve transparency and accountability in public spending.”

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