The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain the Federal Government from borrowing an estimated N895bn of Nigerians’ money in the form of their unclaimed dividends and balances in dormant accounts.
The group argued that the borrowing pegged under the the Finance Act, 2020 was patently unlawful, unconstitutional, and discriminatory since it explicitly excludes dormant official bank accounts by all branches of government and their agencies.
The suit followed recent move by the central government to take over and borrow unclaimed dividends and dormant account balances owned by Nigerians in any bank in the country.
SERAP through a suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/31/2021 filed last Friday, was seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining and stopping the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government from demanding, taking over, borrowing, and collecting Nigerians’ money in the form of their unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts or transferring and moving the money into a trust fund known as ‘Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund.
In the suit, SERAP is arguing that “the federal government should not be allowed to borrow Nigerians’ money. Borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts owned by ordinary Nigerians would negatively affect their right to an adequate standard of living, and access to clean water, quality healthcare and education.
“The move to borrow Nigerians’ money amounts to unlawful expropriation, as it is neither proportionate nor necessary, especially given the unwillingness or inability of the government to stop systemic and widespread corruption in MDAs, cut waste and stop all leakages in public expenditures. The borrowing is also not in the public interest.
“Respect for the right to property is important to improve the enjoyment of other basic human rights and to lift Nigerians out of poverty. There is a limit on the ability of any government to interfere with private property without legal justification. The right to property is a sacred and fundamental right.”
“Borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts without due process of law and the knowledge and explicit consent of the owners is arbitrary, and as such, legally and morally unjustifiable.”
“To create a valid trust relationship, there must be explicit agreement between the setlor and the trustee, for the benefits of the trust beneficiary. There must also be sufficient evidence of the setlor’s intention to create a trust. The relationship cannot be arbitrarily created. It can also not be forced or assumed unilaterally, which is exactly what the Federal Government is pushing to do in this case.”
Joined in the suit as Defendants are Abubakar Malami SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ms Zainab Ahmed.