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By NBF News
Listen to article The Institute of Capital Market Registrars (ICMR) has flayed the alleged claim  by  some market operators that some registrars were to blame for the rising increase of unclaimed dividends in the country.

The Registrar/Chief Executive of ICMR, Dr Walker Ogogo, speaking to LEADERSHIP against the backdrop of some media report recently, that the astronomical increase in unclaimed dividends in the country, which was put in the region of N52 billion by the apex market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), was traced to the complicity of some registrars, who allegedly connive with parent bodies to deprive unsuspecting investors of their return on investments, said there was no truth in the allegation.

Ogogo noted that the registrars have been working jointly with the regulators to ensure that investors got their dividends, but were constrained by the inability of the shareholders to embrace the e-payment system.

He explained that some shareholders were behind the problem rising of unclaimed dividends, despite committed efforts by SEC, registrars and other stakeholders to reduce it.

According to him, majority of the problems bedeviling the e-dividend malaise emanated from shareholders, adding that a good number of these shareholders were conservatively old fashioned and do not want to embrace the process of e-transactions.

'They bluntly refuse to complete their e-dividend formalities presented to them, leading to a compounding of the problem,' he said.

He argued further that ever since the privatisation policy of the Yakubu Gowon's administration in the early 1970s, unclaimed dividends have been a canker worm in the history of the capital market.

'During this exercise, those in positions of authority, who had the wherewithal, acquired shares in the privatised companies with fictitious names of their drivers, cooks, gardeners, dead brothers, dead fathers, etc, in such a way that when the dividends came, they were not able to claim them because there were no such persons to claim the dividends .'

Speaking in the same vein, the Managing Director, Lambeth Trust & Investment Company Limited, Mr. David Adonri, explained that unclaimed dividends are increasing every year due to several factors which according to him, the problem started several years ago during the indigenization exercise when several shareholders made multiple subscriptions in fictitious names whose signatures they cannot remember.

He noted that the affected shareholders are also unable to open bank accounts in these fictitious names for the purpose of e-dividends collection.

He added that most of the unclaimed dividends are statute barred and forfeited to the companies in which case, recovery by the affected shareholders may not be possible in the absence of means of identification.

It should be recalled that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had recently said it has begun strategic reduction of the outstanding  unpaid dividends.

The Director General, Securities and Exchange Commission, Ms. Arunma Otteh who stated this at a media press briefing on the Nigerian Capital Market said the commission took on registrars on a radical solution to the problems adding that 'we jointly considered a number of options and by the end of this quarter, the result will be felt'.

Otteh noted that the commission's target was that in 2013 it should reduce the size outstanding dividend by 50 per cent.

She said the regulator also aimed to finally dispose of the operational and regulatory bottlenecks that have led to the accumulation of unpaid dividends.

Otteh said the regulator understand that some of the shareholders are having problems on the issue of paying their dividends into current accounts as some of them do not  operate such account.

She noted that the commission is currently working with other regulators on how to ensure that dividends are paid directly to shareholders savings accounts