By Louis Ibah and Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described as preposterous the decision of the Federal Government to borrow money from unclaimed dividends and bank accounts that have been dormant in the past three years.
The Finance Act, signed into law by Buhari last December, allowed the government to borrow unclaimed dividends and dormant account balances owned by Nigerians in any bank in the country.
National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, however, said at the commissioning of the remodelled Bonny-Bille-Nembe Jetty in Rivers State at the weekend, that it was wrong for the government to tamper with funds belonging to private citizens, saying some of the dormant funds that the government planned to take over, apart from belonging to poor Nigerians, were subject of court litigations.
“It means that the country has gone to the lowest level if we can go to borrow money from unclaimed dividends and accounts that have not been used for three years. They should cease to borrow this money. The money is for the poor masses of this country. We in PDP, we are against it. Don’t touch the monies of the people. The accounts are individual accounts,” he said.
In the same vein, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him “to promptly drop the plan to borrow about N895 billion 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.”
In a letter dated January 9 signed by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said the right to property was a sacred and fundamental right and that borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts amounted to an illegal expropriation, and that it would hurt poor and vulnerable Nigerians who continue to suffer under reduced public services.
“We would be grateful if your government would drop the decision to borrow unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts, and to indicate the measures being taken to send back the Finance Act to the National Assembly to repeal the legislation and remove its unconstitutional and unlawful provisions, including Sections 60 and 77, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.
“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.
“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 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.
“The borrowing also seems to be discriminatory, as it excludes government’s owned official bank accounts, and may exclude the bank accounts of high-ranking government officials and politicians, thereby violating constitutional and international prohibition of discrimination against vulnerable groups, to allow everyone to fully enjoy their right to property and associated rights on equal terms.”