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SUNDAY PUNCH

OPINION

JANUARY 30, 2011

Unclaimed dividend warrants KOLAWOLE AYINLA UNDAY PUNCH of January 2,

2011 featured a report on the ever recurring issue of unclaimed

dividends. It is well overdue that something concrete was done about it and one welcomes the step already taken by the National Assembly. If and when the body to be set up to look after the fund starts functioning, all eyes should be on it for proper monitoring and highlighting whatever lapses found in it. There are many factors militating against laying claims to dividend warrants and until these are entirely removed or modified, the list will continue to be on the increase. The first of these limitations has to do with those who died without making a will. The alternative to this is to obtain a letter of administration and in this case, people tend to shun it when what would come out of it would not be commensurate with the rigours and expenses involved in obtaining one. As at now, share values in most companies (including the banking sector but six) are below N 10 per share, while many are now dormant. Therefore, people consider it not worth the while. Those who have the desire to make wills are often victims of procrastination until the ultimate happens. Some people who are already 70 and above still expect to live to eternity, oblivious of the words of wisdom as recorded in Psalm 90: 10. They should decide now, either to sell those shares or make use of the proceeds according to their heart's desires; or transfer them to whoever is found reliable on the understanding that henceforth, dividends accruing therefrom

would be handed over to C'riginal owners. Otherwise, they would have made that investment in vain because neither they nor any of their survivors would benefit in the end. The idea of making provision for inserting name of next of kin on share forms is good, but what is expected of such a person has not been properly spelt out. It was once suggested that armed with Death Certificate of a shareholder who died intestate, the next of kin should be able to make a legal tender of that document mainly for having access to certificates and dividend warrants of a deceased. In addition to presenting a death certificate, a sworn affidavit should accompany it. This approach is sure to bring immense relief to all stakeholders. It is very necessary that signature of a next-of-kin should be provided for on share sales! transfer forms to serve as further security. When companies were ordered to go public, all categories of workers became shareholders, while a good number who were of the lower grade were not operating bank accounts. While in service, they were able to claim their dividends through their respective employers. There is no doubt that such

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workers who must have gone on retirement would have problems processing their dividend warrants; and relations of those who have died would face problems unless the foregoing suggested measure is in place. If Death Certificate had been legalised for that purpose, everybody would have been saved the ordeal now experienced by companies and survivors alike. Indeed, the long list of unclaimed dividends would have drastically reduced.

The idea of making provision for inserting name of next of kin on share forms is good, but what is expected of such a person has not been properly spelt out'

14 It should be pointed out that the fund being kept in companies' books should be regarded as pubHc fund. It belongs mostly to the dead than the living who are either victims of ignorance or incapacitated due

to sickness. For this reason (and pending the outcome of the bill) one is strongly suggesting that the Federal Government should give a directive to all companies to transfer whatever they are holding (short of two years unclaimed funds) to the Central Bank of Nigeria for safe-keeping. The main reason is to forestall smart Nigerians from gaining undue access to the funds, either at a company's level or that of a bank. If a bank goes under today, unclaimed dividend goes down with it, with an eventual write:off at the affected company's end. Moreover, when banks are merged, there is no guarantee that these funds are not tampered with in collaboration with unscrupulous officials in those companies. According to the publication under review, well over N3bn is now floating about in various banks. A mere N1bn (about -0.3 per cent) would be sufficient to give life to about 400 children now on the waiting list at Kanu Hole-in-the-Heart Foundation, since each needs just about N2.5m for the operation. Whatever decision is arrived at in respect of the pending bill should be extended to the banking sector, with particular reference to dormant accounts. Many banks are holding fast to this public fund in their books and they are not entitled to it. Unfortunately, banks are not disclosing such funds separately, unlike what is done by companies for unclaimed dividends. The Federal Government should promulgate a law to this effect. Aylnla wrote vide okinslndebaba@ yahoo_co_uk

Towards a global strategy .for climate change KIYO AKASAKA

, VER since I attended the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change in 1997, I have been fascinated by the development of the international debate on this issue. There are few forces that can literally reshape the global landscape as climate change cab. Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, lakes that are drying up and rainforests that become savannahs are just some of the changes that are wrought by climate change. These dramatic changes are already visible, but the impacts are expected to become increasingly more severe. Global warming not only has environmental

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consequences, but also serious social, economic and even security implications, making it an all-encompassing threat. Yet, despite the scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that climate change is occurring and is certainly caused by human activities, the international response to the problem has been far from sufficient. Overcoming this vast inertia in order to take action on climate change will require significant political and economic efforts, starting with Heads of State and Government and extending to the grassroots level. Fortunately, climate change has reemerged on the international political agenda. Just like ten years ago when

Member States agreed that all people and countries had the right to develop, but that development should incorporate a balance of economic, soc~alarid environmental c6ncerns~

the Kyoto Conference was held, more people, more businesses and more Governments-local and national-are recognizing climate change as a priority issue. The media has also stepped up its reporting on climate change, and the recent launches of the IPCC reports attracted more than double the attention the last IPCC assessment garnered five years ago. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made climate change one of his main priorities and has said that it is urgent for countries to agree on a strong framework by 2010 to ensure that there is no gap between the end of the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period in 2012 and the entry into force of a future regime. The problem is that there are vast hurdles that must be overcome before any agreement is reached. The emissions of greenhouse gases causing climate change are rising--not falling-and many countries have indicated that they are not ready to sacrifice their national economic interests without guarantees that everyone will be making similar efforts. But there are other reasons for mistrust as well: most of the world's l.2 billion people who survive on $1 a day or less live in developing countries that have had little to do with causing the problem of climate change. There are many who ask, "Why then should poorer countries be constrained in their development efforts when people in industrialized countries lead comfortable, high-consumption lifestyles?" This is not a

new question-and it was fundamentally addressed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro that produced "Agenda 21", the universally agreed upon blueprint for sustainable development. Member States agreed that all people and countries had the right to develop, but that development should incorporate a balance of economic, social and environmental concerns. It was also recognized that industrialized countries needed to assist developing nations with the necessary resources and technologies needed for sustainable development. The IPCC showed us there are soh,ltions -"'. that are not economically prohibitive to effectively address climate change. But we need the collective will of all countries to embark on implementing these solutions. We need to build the trust between people quickly before it is either too late or too expensive to act. The cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action. No matter what we do, the earth's temperature will continue to rise for years to come. The IPCC predicts that the average warming would likely be in the range of 2째 to 4.5째 Celsius, with the best estimate of 3째 C, or 5.4째 F, by 2100. The longer we wait to act, the greater the build-up in greenhouse gases, and the result will be a higher rate of warming. Conversely, by acting aggressively now, according to the IPec reports, we can limit the rate of climate change to a more manageable level. Akasaka writes for UN Chronicle,


PUNCH, January 30, 2011