SEC to open new e-dividend portal November 30 over unclaimed dividends issues

THE Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has said that a new e-dividend mandate portal would be operational at the end of this month to solve the challenges investors encounter in processing their unclaimed dividends.

The Commission’s Director General, Lamido Yuguda, said this while giving a remark at a two-day training SEC organised for journalists in Lagos State on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 14 and 15.

He said, “To help solve the perennial problem of unclaimed dividends, the Capital Market Committee, under the leadership of the Commission, has embarked on the creation of a new e-dividend portal, which is expected to become operational on November 30 2023.

“Once operational, this portal will simplify the process of mandating accounts for e-dividend. This will improve efficiency and ultimately leading to a significant fall in unclaimed dividends.”

SEC had in July 2015 introduced an e-dividend mandate form supposedly to ease the processing for shareholders to claim their dividends.

At the end of September 2015, the value of unclaimed dividends stood at N90 billion; it rose to N155.44 billion as of 2019, then to N170 billion in 2020, and has continued to surge.

The e-dividend mandate was expected to allow quoted companies to pay dividends directly into shareholders’ bank accounts and reduce the total value of unclaimed dividends.

But eight years later, the total value of unclaimed dividends has continued to increase.

In August this year, the SEC disclosed that unclaimed dividends have risen to N190 billion, escalating concerns, particularly among shareholders who rightfully owned the money.

Unclaimed dividends are payments companies declare for their shareholders, which the latter has yet to claim.

Among other issues, the SEC has blamed the increasing value of unclaimed dividend cases on multiple subscriptions.

In his remark, Yuguda added that unclaimed dividends would remain there until the owners come forward to claim them.

“In furtherance of its efforts to ensure that new dividends do not become unclaimed, the Commission is presently supporting work on an identity management system that would ensure that investors and market participants are properly identified so as to forestall the problems that led to the accumulation of unclaimed dividends,” Yuguda added.

The ICIR had on March 18 reported that unclaimed dividends, resting in the Unclaimed Dividends Trust Fund being managed by the Debt Management Office (DMO) and SEC, are unsettling the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) and the entire stakeholders in the capital market.

The chief executive officer (CEO) of NGX, Temi Popoola, at a retail investors’ webinar on March 17, expressed worries over the unended cases of unclaimed dividends.

Popoola was concerned that some retail investors remained unaware of the backlog of unclaimed dividends accrued over many years.

The matter is worse for investors with legacy investments held on their behalf and endowed as investments by birthright or inheritance.

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